While you're probably aware that drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin are illegal under federal and most states' law, you might not know that people can be prosecuted for owning or selling related items or objects, even if they aren't in possession of the actual drugs. This article covers what you need to know about laws prohibiting drug-related paraphernalia.
Drug Paraphernalia Laws
Under federal law, it is unlawful to do any of the following:
Simple possession of paraphernalia is not a federal crime. However, under some state laws merely owning or having these items is illegal. Police may check for drug residue, and if it's clear that a pipe, bong, hookah or other item was used for smoking illegal substances, a person may face drug paraphernalia charges.
Examples of Drug Paraphernalia
Federal law lists numerous specific examples of prohibited paraphernalia, including:
Some states have longer lists of banned items. For instance, Washington State adds:
Both federal and state laws identify various factors that law enforcement officials must use to distinguish between a lawful physical object (e.g., a scale or a spoon) and unlawful drug paraphernalia.
In states that have legalized marijuana for recreational use, lawmakers may have eliminated certain objects from the list, such as bongs or roach clips. However, even if a state no longer outlaws these items, it's important to be aware that federal law still considers them to be illegal drug paraphernalia and forbids their sale.
Penalties for Possessing or Distributing
Punishments for drug paraphernalia are generally less severe than for offenses involving illicit drugs themselves. Under the federal statute, the maximum sentence for selling paraphernalia is three years, plus a fine. As noted above, federal law does not outlaw possession per se.
Under state law, penalties vary. For example, in Ohio drug paraphernalia possession is a fourth-degree misdemeanor (punishable by up to 30 days of jail time plus a fine), but dealing in paraphernalia is a misdemeanor of the second degree (up to 90 days in jail plus a larger fine). While most states treat paraphernalia distribution as a misdemeanor, some punish it as a felony if it involves sale of items to minors.
Get Legal Help with Your Drug Paraphernalia Charges
If you've been accused of a drug paraphernalia offense or any other crime, don't waste a moment before speaking with an experienced attorney who knows the ropes and will protect your legal rights. Contact a qualified drug crime lawyer near you today.