Drug Paraphernalia Lawyers
Possession of drug paraphernalia is a California misdemeanor. It carries the possibility of a jail sentence as well as a fine. In addition, many employers in Orange County and elsewhere in Southern California regard any drug conviction as a barrier to continued or future employment. California real estate licenses and other professional certifications can be denied or revoked if the licensing authority determines that a paraphernalia conviction is evidence of unfitness for the profession.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia – Syringes
Section 11364 of the Health and Safety Code makes it a crime to possess any device that is used for “unlawfully” injecting or smoking certain controlled substances. The word “unlawfully” distinguishes, for example, a diabetic’s lawful possession of a syringe for the injection of insulin from the unlawful possession of a syringe to inject heroin.
Prior to January 1, 2015, drug users in California counties that participated in the Disease Prevention Demonstration Project could lawfully possess syringes by obtaining them from an “authorized source,” provided they were possessed for personal use (rather than for the purpose of reselling them). A licensed pharmacy is a common example of an “authorized source.”
That law facilitated needle exchange programs in an effort to combat AIDS. However, it was illegal to possess more than ten syringes at one time. Individuals arrested before 2015 can still be prosecuted for violating the paraphernalia law if they possessed more than ten syringes that they used to inject illicit drugs.
Effective January 1, 2015, section 4145.5 of the Business and Professions Code provides that “notwithstanding any other provision of the law,” a person who has reached the age of 18 may obtain an unlimited number of syringes from a physician or pharmacist for personal use. No prescription is required if the dispensing pharmacy meets certain standards.
It is important to understand, however, that syringe possession can still be prosecuted if the syringes were not obtained from a pharmacy or doctor or if syringes are possessed for the purpose of reselling them to users of illicit drugs.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia – Pipes and Spoons
Section 11364 HS specifically mentions opium pipes, but it broadly criminalizes the possession of any pipe used to unlawfully ingest certain controlled substances. Marijuana pipes are not covered by section 11364. Crack pipes and devices use to smoke methamphetamine (even if homemade) are the most common examples of “smoking??? paraphernalia covered by the law.
A coke spoon is another example of illegal drug paraphernalia. For that matter, a rolled up dollar bill that is used to snort cocaine is technically paraphernalia. Since spoons and dollar bills have legitimate uses, it is difficult for prosecutors to prove that they were possessed for an unlawful purpose unless they are covered with drug residue or the user is caught in the act of using them. In those cases, a paraphernalia charge is usually added to more serious drug possession charges.
Defenses to Paraphernalia Possession
Defenses to a paraphernalia possession charge include:
- The accused individual did not actually possess the item. For example, if it isn’t yours and you have no right to use it, you do not possess a pipe even if you happen to be nearby when the police discover it.
- The accused did not know about the item. If someone left paraphernalia in your car and you did not know about it, you did not commit a crime.
- The item was not actually drug paraphernalia. If the prosecutor can’t prove that the item was intended for use in consuming drugs, the prosecutor is not entitled to a conviction.
- The accused did not know the item was drug paraphernalia. If someone gives you a crack pipe from which the “rose??? has not been removed and you keep it in the belief is a novelty item rather than drug paraphernalia, you have not committed a crime.
In addition to the factual defenses described above, legal defenses can be raised. Challenges to the legality of the search and seizure of drug paraphernalia are among the most successful defense strategies.
Manufacture and Sale of Drug Paraphernalia
It is not unusual to find head shops, smoke shops, and other businesses that sell drug paraphernalia in Los Angeles County and across Southern California. Those businesses are prohibited from displaying drug paraphernalia in areas that are open to minors. A violation of that law can result in costly forfeitures of the merchant’s improperly displayed goods. It can also result in the revocation of business licenses.
Other California laws applying to drug paraphernalia (other than marijuana pipes) make it illegal to:
- Manufacture drug paraphernalia with the knowledge that it will be put to an illegal use. While the crime applies to businesses that make paraphernalia, it also applies to meth pipes made from lightbulbs or crack pipes fashioned from radio antennas.
- Furnishing drug paraphernalia to another person with knowledge that it will be put to an illegal use.
- Furnish drug paraphernalia to a minor.
- Possess a syringe on school grounds knowing that a minor will use it to inject illegal drugs.
Depending on the offense, those crimes can be either misdemeanors or felonies.
Representation for California Paraphernalia Offenses
Blemishing a clean criminal record with a criminal conviction can do immense harm to a career. Individuals accused of paraphernalia offenses who have prior convictions may face harsher sentences as a consequence of having a criminal record.
Fortunately, defenses are available to paraphernalia offenses. Some charges can be defeated because the prosecution cannot prove the accusation beyond a reasonable doubt. Others are dismissed because the prosecution relies upon evidence that was illegally obtained. In many cases, a diversion program is available that will allow the accused to avoid a conviction after acknowledging a drug problem and participating in treatment.
As an experienced drug paraphernalia attorney and former prosecutor, Randy Collins understands which defense options will best serve your needs. With offices in Riverside and Orange County, Randy Collins is positioned to serve clients who have charged with a paraphernalia offense across Southern California. To request an evaluation of your paraphernalia charge, call 888-250-2865 or submit our online contact form.
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