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I Was Arrested for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia: Fines, Penalties, Costs, and Sentencing

Drug paraphernalia includes any instrument you might use to take or distribute drugs. Common items include bongs, pipes, syringes, and roach clips. However, the court may determine that just about anything qualifies as paraphernalia.

Laws surrounding the possession and use of drug paraphernalia exist in every state, though there are numerous differences in wording, application, and punishment.

What is Drug Paraphernalia?

There is an extremely broad classification of drug paraphernalia simply because so many common, household items are used to either ingest or distribute illegal drugs. For example, many people own a kitchen scale, and nearly everyone has spoons. Most people use these items for their intended purpose, but they may also be used as drug paraphernalia.

The federal government and many states also list certain items in statute, typically dividing paraphernalia items into two categories: use and distribution. In addition to pipes, bongs, and roach clips, the federal government lists miniature spoons (holding less than 1/10 of a cubic centimeter).

Distribution paraphernalia includes items used to cut narcotics, scales and balances, testing equipment, and plastic bags used for packaging.

What Constitutes Possession?

Possession charges require proving that the defendant knowingly had control over the item. This might mean the item was found on your person, such as in your pocket, or found in an item you were carrying, such as a bag.

You may also be shown to have constructive possession, meaning that the item was found in an area you have control over, such as your car or home.

Typically, possession charges involve suspicion you have the item for personal use. If you are suspected of having the item in order to sell or distribute it, the charge would likely be distribution of paraphernalia.

What are the Penalties for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia?

Most states charge paraphernalia possession as a misdemeanor, though aggravating factors may result in felony charges. Penalties are higher for the manufacture or distribution of paraphernalia.

Though sentencing and penalties vary by state, there are commonalities. These include:

  • Fines: Fines are common and vary by state and charges (misdemeanor of felony), and are lower for first offenders.
  • Incarceration: Typically, the maximum sentence is 12 months in jail, with lighter sentences being the norm.
  • Probation: This is a common penalty, especially for first offenders, and may be levied in lieu of or in addition to jail time. Probation typically requires drug screening, regular meetings with a probation officer, community service, and maintaining a clean record.
  • Diversion: These programs may be offered to first offenders and are similar to probation as far as requirements. Successful completion usually results in having the charges dropped.
  • Time served: A sentence of time served means jail time served before conviction, with no additional jail time required.

What are the Penalties for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia in Arizona?

Arizona's Prop 200 provides those convicted of nonviolent drug charges (first or second offense) the opportunity to receive probation instead of jail time. You may also be placed on a TASC program lasting between three and six months. This is a diversion program that requires monthly drug screens and completion of a course on drug and alcohol awareness.

If you are ineligible for Prop 200 provisions, the charge is a Class 6 felony. Penalties include:

  • First offense: Probation plus up to 12 months in jail OR a sentence between four months and 2 years
  • Second offense: Incarceration between nine months and 2.75 years
  • Three or more offenses: Incarceration between 2.25 and 5.75 years

What are the Penalties for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia in Maryland?

Maryland charges possession as a misdemeanor, with penalties depending on whether the charge is for personal use or distribution.

  • Personal use: Maximum sentence of 1 year, fines up to $1,000
  • Distribution: Fines up to $500 (first offense); maximum sentence of 2 years plus fines up $2,000 (second offense)
  • Distribution to a minor 3+ years younger than the defendant: Maximum sentence of 8 years, fines up to $15,000
  • Advertising distribution: Fines up to $500 (first offense); maximum sentence of 2 years plus fines up to $2,000 (second offense)

What are the Penalties for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia in California?

California punishes paraphernalia possession as a misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of six months and fines up to $1,000. An arrest under Health and Safety Code 11364 HS typically leads to professional repercussions, including losing your license and job.

California also offers a diversion program for nonviolent first offenders.

Schedule a Free Consultation

If you were arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia, schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney. He or she will discuss your case with you and advise on next steps.

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