Here’s What You Need to Know

Most of us are familiar with drug charges. We know that possessing illicit drugs or controlled substances in California could lead to a drug charge. However, what many people might not know is that it is also illegal in California to be in possession with items that are known as “drug paraphernalia.” Under California Health and Safety Code Section 11364 HS, the possession of drug paraphernalia is a criminal offense, which could result in jail time for the individuals who are convicted of this crime.

What Are Drug Paraphernalia?

The term “drug paraphernalia” refers to any equipment, product or accessory that is intended or modified for making, using or hiding drugs, typically for recreational purposes. Drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine are connected to a wide range of paraphernalia. Such paraphernalia could belong to users or drug sellers or dealers.

Paraphernalia belonging to drug users may include items such as glass pipes, smoking masks, bongs, syringes, etc. The term “paraphernalia” could also refer to items such as hollowed-out cosmetic cases or products used to cleanse an individual’s system of drug residues for the purpose of passing a urine analysis meant to detect drug use. Paraphernalia used by dealers include digital scales, vials, zipper storage bags, etc. Those accused of such would be well advised to speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

What Does Health and Safety Code 11364 HS Say?

Health and Safety Code 11364 HS makes it illegal to possess “an opium pipe or any device, contrivance, instrument or paraphernalia used for unlawfully injecting or smoking a controlled substance.” It is legal to possess hypodermic needles or syringes if they are meant only for your personal use or if you got them from a doctor, pharmacist, a needle or syringe exchange program or any legally authorized source that provides sterile needles or syringes without a prescription.

This exception to California Health and Safety Code 11364 HS was made to prevent the transmission of HIV and other diseases among those who use heroin and other drugs that are injected into the body. A violation of this law is a crime and is charged as a misdemeanor offense.

Potential penalties for individuals who are convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia include up to a year in county jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. In addition, you could be placed on probation or parole. This means, you could be subjected to random drug testing and searches by law enforcement officers. If you own or operate a business and are convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia, you could lose your business license and face the potential denial of future attempts to secure a business license.

In addition to these penalties, those who are convicted may face other consequences including loss of employment, professional licenses, educational or training opportunities and so on. Any drug crime charge, even if it’s a misdemeanor, can have repercussions that could last a lifetime. This is why it is critical to contact an experienced California drug crime defense attorney as soon as possible to help defend the charges against you.

Potential Defenses Against Paraphernalia

There are several potential defenses that could be used to fight charges involving possession of drug paraphernalia. Here is a look at some of those defenses:

The objects were not paraphernalia. A number of objects that are routinely used as drug paraphernalia are in fact everyday objects that have a wide variety of other uses than administering, selling or concealing drugs. For example, needles and syringes are commonly used to administer prescription drugs. Diabetics use syringes and needles to administer insulin. Objects such as pipes are often used to smoke legal substances such as tobacco. Other items such as digital scales are commonly used in kitchens to measure cooking ingredients. So, just because the object looks like drug paraphernalia, doesn’t mean it is used to administer or manufacture illegal drugs.

The items were not yours. If the items deemed to be drug paraphernalia are not yours, then, you cannot be charged under California Health and Safety Code 11364 HS. For example, if the items belonged to another family member, friend or a roommate, then you have a defense.

You did not know it was paraphernalia. If you did not know that the items were drug paraphernalia, you cannot be found guilty of violating this law. This particular defense can be particularly effective for those who have no prior history of drug use or criminal record.

The items were obtained through illegal search and seizure. There are often instances when drug paraphernalia are discovered during an illegal search and seizure. Police need a probable cause for conducting a search of someone’s vehicle or home. If law enforcement officials conduct an illegal search and seize drug paraphernalia during such an illegal search, the evidence and the charges could be thrown out.

Diversion Program

If you are convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia, you may qualify for diversion programs under Proposition 36 and California Penal Code Section 1000. The court may allow you to undergo rehabilitative treatment for substance abuse rather than facing jail time. If you successfully complete the diversion program and exhibit good behavior, your case could be dismissed. In lieu of jail time, the court can also impose formal probation for up to three years. This means you will be under the supervision of a probation officer and a violation of your probation terms could result in jail time.

Contacting an Experienced Lawyer

If you or a loved one is facing possession of drug paraphernalia charges in California, it is important that you contact an experienced California drug crime defense lawyer right away. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer who has successfully handled drug crime cases will be able to protect your rights every step of the way and present a strong defense in your case, minimizing or eliminating jail time.

Any type of drug charge – whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony – has the potential to result in serious consequences and adversely affect your future. Call our offices to find out how we can help you achieve the best possible outcome.