You don’t need to possess an illegal substance to be charged with a drug crime in Pittsburgh. Even if you are caught using or possessing drug paraphernalia, like a bong or rolling papers, you could face a serious criminal conviction. Drug paraphernalia is one of the most common drug charges in Pennsylvania and should not be taken lightly.
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, LLC, our Pittsburgh drug defense lawyers have in-depth knowledge of the Commonwealth’s paraphernalia laws and how they are realistically applied. If you’ve been charged with possessing drug paraphernalia, contact us at (412) 504-7978 or online to schedule a no-cost case assessment.
What Are Pennsylvania’s Drug Paraphernalia Laws?
The Pennsylvania drug paraphernalia laws are fairly broad, with three sections addressing what is illegal:
- It is a violation to use or possess items intended for planting, producing, harvesting, compounding, ingesting, inhaling, storing, packaging, concealing, or otherwise introducing a controlled substance into the human body.
- It is a violation to deliver, possess with the intent to deliver, or manufacture with the intent to deliver drug paraphernalia if you should reasonably know the item will be used for the purposes listed in 1.
- It is a violation to place an ad in any written or electronic media that promotes the sale of objects designed as drug paraphernalia. This includes emails, social media posts, newspapers, magazines, and any other online channels.
Examples of Drug Paraphernalia
Though the statute defines the types of activities that could lead to an arrest for drug paraphernalia, it doesn’t provide a list of items that allow police to charge you with a drug crime. Plus, the language is so general that many of your legal personal belongings only become illegal when devoted to certain unlawful purposes.
Examples of drug paraphernalia may include:
- Bongs, pipes, rolling papers, “roach” clips, and screens for filtering smoke;
- Scales and devices for measuring drugs;
- Blenders, spoons, and mixing tools;
- Vials, plastic baggies, and other containers used to store or conceal controlled substances;
- Hypodermic needles for drug injection;
- Razors and cutting utensils for dividing controlled substances;
- Grow lights for cultivating drugs.
This list is in no way exhaustive. There are many unusual, creative, and innovative devices that people may use to engage in activities that are prohibited by Pennsylvania’s drug paraphernalia laws. Even a soda can or piece of fruit can be modified to enable the user to inhale smoke from it. Therefore, while the item itself is key to constituting drug paraphernalia charges, so is the intended use.
How Can I Get Arrested For Possession Of Drug Paraphernalia?
The statute covers many scenarios where drug paraphernalia is illegal when linked to prohibited activities such as the use, possession, producing, or trafficking of controlled substances. However, it’s not necessary for the item to already be used. For instance:
- You can be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia if police find a pipe containing marijuana resin on your person. Though it’s a small amount, any weight of resin that registers will demonstrate that the item had been used for inhalation.
- You can also be arrested if you have a clean, never-used pipe, along with a plastic baggie containing marijuana. The bag is circumstantial evidence that you intended to use the pipe to smoke it. However, if you have a clean pipe and a bag of loose tobacco, it’s not likely that you’ll be arrested.
In both examples, you should note that being charged with possession of drug paraphernalia often leads to additional charges. The bag of marijuana obviously violates state controlled substances laws, but so does the resin in the pipe.
What Are the Penalties for Drug Paraphernalia?
For a first-time drug paraphernalia offense in Pennsylvania, you face a third-degree misdemeanor. A conviction could mean up to a one-year jail sentence, a maximum fine of $2,500, or both. With the help of a possession of drug paraphernalia lawyer, you may be able to secure probation, community service, or a combination. Subsequent convictions for possession of drug paraphernalia could raise the matter to a higher degree misdemeanor or even a felony.
Aggravating Factors that Increase Penalties
Certain details in your case can result in more severe penalties. For example, if you sell or give drug paraphernalia to a minor and you are at least three years older, the offense is a second-degree misdemeanor. Your sentence includes a maximum of two years in custody and a fine of up to $5,000.
Drug paraphernalia charges can also accompany drug possession charges if illegal substances are found with the item. Additionally, certain items like baggies and scales can be associated with the sale of controlled substances and increase your penalties.
Other Consequences of a Drug Paraphernalia Conviction
A conviction results in a criminal record that can negatively affect your ability to get a job, join the military, obtain certain professional licenses, or be admitted to graduate school.
You may also face revocation of permits and licenses, and your employment may be at stake as well. Your driver’s license will be suspended for six months for a first offense, one year for a second offense, and two years for a third offense.
If you are a parent and share custody of your children, a conviction could negatively impact your ability to see your children or obtain custodial rights.
Why You Need a Drug Paraphernalia Defense Lawyer
You may believe that your paraphernalia offense is no big deal, easily handled by explaining things to the officers involved or the prosecutor. However, there are many ways a lawyer can assist, especially by presenting defenses and ensuring your rights are respected. Depending on the circumstances, you may contest:
- Any facts that the prosecutor introduces as evidence;
- Whether police had probable cause to arrest you;
- The element of possession, which may apply if you were driving someone else’s car and didn’t know that drug paraphernalia was present;
- Whether police had a proper warrant to search you, your home, or business; and,
- Any other element of the crime.
Always remember that you cannot be convicted unless the prosecuting attorney proves your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Your drug paraphernalia lawyer will know Pennsylvania’s statutes and will employ every available defense strategy. By contesting the facts and law, it may be possible to get lesser charges, probation, a reduced sentence, or other favorable outcomes like a complete dismissal.
Schedule A Free Appointment With A Pittsburgh Drug Paraphernalia Lawyer
When you consider the extremely broad definition of objects that qualify as illegal drug paraphernalia, you shouldn’t be putting your rights and permanent record at risk. Drug paraphernalia charges come with substantial fines and prison time. Fighting your charges alone without a lawyer will not likely result in a favorable outcome. If you’ve been charged with drug paraphernalia, your first step should be speaking with a Pittsburgh defense lawyer who has substantial criminal defense experience and impressive results.
Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC has represented many clients in Pittsburgh, and we are here to help you too. To set up a no-cost consultation, please call (412) 504-7978 or fill out our online contact form.