When it comes to drug crimes, there is perhaps no more vague of an accusation than possession of “drug paraphernalia.” In essence, this law is designed to try and stamp down on people who have tools used to ingest illegal narcotics or controlled substances. However, because so many everyday household items can be used to do this, the laws have become pretty hazy.
What the Laws Say
Pennsylvania’s drug paraphernalia statute is found in 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(32), which reads “The use of, or possession with intent to use, drug paraphernalia for the purpose of planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packing, repacking, storing, containing, concealing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance in violation of this act.” In short, having anything that can be used to ingest illegal drugs can also be considered against the law.
However, drug paraphernalia can be almost anything, including spoons, razor blades, or even small straws that you can get from your local coffee shop. Why are those not considered drug paraphernalia while others are? The answer lies in one word: intent. Officers need to be able to demonstrably prove that an item was in someone’s possession because they had the intent to consume narcotics or illegal drugs. This is where the complexity comes in.
How is Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Charged?
In short, this crime is not often charged on its own, but often alongside other charges, including drug possession. The logic is that someone found with something that could be seen as “drug paraphernalia” as well as the controlled substance they consume with them could reasonably argue that there was intent to use the items as drug paraphernalia.
However, what this means is that officers who legally conduct a search and find you in possession of something like a smoking pipe, razor blades, or small spoons most likely won’t be able to demonstrate your intent. These items are not against the law, and possessing them isn’t either. For this reason, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia without also being charged with possession of a controlled substance.
Here are some common examples of items that could be considered to be “drug paraphernalia:”
- Plastic baggies
- Thin joint papers
- Smoking pipes
- Metal spoons
- Measuring scales
- Needles or syringes
- Razor blades
- Small mirrors