Drug Paraphernalia

The term “drug paraphernalia” is used to describe items that are used to make and/or use drugs. Those who aren’t familiar with drug culture often it’s easy to identify drug paraphernalia. For instance, if someone is found with a glass pipe, chances are good they are using it for a hardcore drug, such as meth or crack cocaine.

Unfortunately, the identification of drug paraphernalia – and the laws related to these items – are not always so cut and dry. Many items used by drug dealers and users are everyday things that non-drug users have in their homes. For instance, a ballpoint pen or plastic sandwich baggies – items that have a variety of non-criminal uses – can also be associated with drug use. So what happens if law enforcement finds a seemingly innocuous item in your possession? Can it be used against you in court?


Identifying Drug Paraphernalia

First, it’s important to understand the legal definition of “drug paraphernalia. Federal law defines drug paraphernalia as:

“…any equipment, product or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance.”

This law can include specific drug-related items, such as the glass pipe mentioned above, but it might also include scales, spoons, paper currency, magic markers, or pills that aren’t in their original containers, as well as a variety of other items. Some of the most common things mentioned in drug charges include:

  • Scales
  • Baggies
  • Pipes
  • Bowls
  • Bongs
  • Rolling papers
  • Roach clips
  • Grinders
  • Vaporizers
  • Straws
  • Razor blades
  • Mirrors
  • Spoons
  • Needles and syringes
  • Tubes
  • Hoses
  • Pill presses
  • Capsules
  • Whip-its
  • Aerosol spray cans
  • Paint, glue and other chemicals
  • Light bulbs
  • Aluminum cans
  • Plastic bottles

The average person would see many of these items and assume nothing nefarious is going on, but if law enforcement suspects you of drug uses, possession of these items compound the problem and can be used against you in a court of law.

It is also important to realize law enforcement will use whatever it can to build a case against you – so if you are suspected of a drug crime and found in possession of an item that could be related to drug use, chances are it will be used to build their case. It is even more likely the items will become evidence if drugs or other suspicious items are found nearby.

For an item to be used against you to prove a crime, it will be tested for drug residue. Unfortunately, depending on the item, there is a real possibility that the tests will be positive, even if you are not a drug user. An experienced attorney will be tasked to prove the drug residue wasn’t related to anything you did and the item was tainted before it was ever in your position – something that can be a tough case to make.

It might also be possible for an attorney to prove the testing process was faulty and the results should not be used in the case against you. These are arguments only an experienced attorney can make on your behalf, and you should never assume “the truth will prevail” if you are innocent and accused of a drug crime. It’s essential you work with someone who can help you and protect your rights.


What Should I Do If Police Find Me with Drug Paraphernalia?

In most cases, you won’t be charged with a drug crime just because you were found with a scale or a spoon. If this is the only evidence, it’s nearly impossible for the prosecution to prove you were guilty. However, if you’ve been accused of a crime – even if the evidence against you seems scant – it’s still important to work with an attorney. The presence of suspicious items can complicate your defense, and you need someone familiar with law enforcement and the court system on your side.

Penalties for possession of drug paraphernalia can be severe, but the outcome of your case will depend on a variety of factors. The court will take into consideration the circumstances of your specific case, as well as whether or not you’ve been charged with crimes in the past and whether or not those crimes were related to drug use. The type and amount of drug, if any, found with the paraphernalia also plays a role in your case.

A skilled Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorney will evaluate the circumstances of your arrest and determine if anything can be used to support your case. Sometimes, mistakes made by law enforcement help you and result in lesser charges.

If you do not have a criminal history and the primary evidence being used against you in your current situation are the suspicious items, it’s unlikely you’ll face serious jail time. However, you could be looking at a hefty fine and/or mandatory attendance in a rehabilitation program. Drug paraphernalia charges can be considered a misdemeanor or felony and often result in a fine and/or probation. Probation might be unsupervised or supervised, depending on your particular circumstances.

Even a minor charge related to drug paraphernalia could have a grave effect on your life. It is alarming to think about all the things that could change because you are simply suspected of drug use and found with a spoon or plastic baggie or scale.

It is imperative you find an attorney who understands drug laws and can conduct a thorough investigation of your situation. He or she will help you determine how strong the case against you is and assist you in building a defense. An attorney will also ensure you are treated fairly during the legal process and that your rights are not violated. There is no sense risking your future or your freedom, even if you believe the case against you is weak.

If you have a paraphernalia charge, call to schedule a consultation to learn more about drug crimes and what you should do if you are found with drug paraphernalia, contact Remington & Dixon at 704-247-7110.


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We recommend meeting with an attorney. While there is free legal help available for North Carolina residents from pro bono resources for civil matters, and public defenders for criminal cases, the best way to access tailored advice is to hire a lawyer.

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This is done on a case by case basis if you are involved in a family law, criminal, or professional disciplinary matter that involves another jurisdiction.



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