Under Pennsylvania’s drug laws, an individual can be criminally convicted and sent to prison for either using or owning drug paraphernalia with intent to use it. While a misdemeanor, the potential prison sentence is up to one year, along with a $2,500 fine, which is ironically longer the lowest-level sentence for possession of marijuana, meaning possession of a marijuana pipe could mean a longer sentence than possession of marijuana. Thus, it is of critical importance that those facing charges for possession of drug paraphernalia do everything they can to fight the charges by presenting their best defense.
What is Drug Paraphernalia in PA?
Pennsylvania law does not have a list of what specific items qualify as drug paraphernalia, but instead outlaws the use or possession of an item with the intent to use the item “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.”
What this means is that many items that would be otherwise legal, such as cigarette rolling papers, are considered drug paraphernalia if they are actually used for inhaling or storing marijuana, or simply possessed with the intent to use them for marijuana. In order to prove the intent, a prosecutor might point to the fact that marijuana and rolling papers were found on an individual, and thus the presence of the marijuana is circumstantial evidence of the intent of the individual to use the rolling papers for marijuana use. Under those circumstances, the individual would be facing two criminal charges: possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
In addition to rolling papers, other items that could be considered drug paraphernalia include:
- Vaporizing devices
- Baggies used to hold drugs
- Scales used to weigh drugs
- Razors, mirrors, etc.
Defending Yourself Against Drug Paraphernalia Charges
Given the strict penalties for drug paraphernalia convictions, prosecutors and police will often use multiple charges for possessing paraphernalia as leverage against suspects and defendants to get an easy confession. But those under suspicion or arrest should always avoid speaking with police and prosecutors without the presence and counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can protect their rights and provide them with strategies to use in their defense.
Your criminal defense attorney will evaluate your specific situation to determine the best strategy, but common strategies can include:
- Arguing that the paraphernalia was not actually in your possession
- Arguing that the alleged paraphernalia was a legally-owned item and that their was no intent to use it for an illegal purpose
- Casting doubt on whether you knew the item was in your possession or that it was intended to be used for an illegal purpose
- Calling into question the constitutionality of the police officer’s methods in detaining you, arresting you, searching you or your property for contraband, and seizing evidence
- Negotiating an agreement to minimize your charges and/or penalties
Speak with a PA Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you have been charged with or are under investigation for any drug-related crime in Pennsylvania, The Martin Law Firm, P.C., in Montgomery County, may be able to help. Contact us today for a free consultation with a PA criminal defense attorney today to discuss your circumstances.