Drug-related crimes often attract attention to the suspect, giving him or her a secondary identity. Mostly, society tends to identify guilty offenders as dangerous persons who can transfer bad influence into their children. The main reason that leads to the acquired stigma is that drug crimes have a direct link to narcotic use. However, the situations that lead to an arrest may have numerous grey areas that leave you wrongly accused. For example, countless unresolved cases have brought out the criminal procedures that police officers often follow to arrest and charge a bystander. Other times, the paraphernalia collected as evidence may not be yours. To prevent all the inconvenient and unnecessary delays in carrying on with your life after facing a drug crime charge, you need the assistance of well-experienced defense attorneys.

At the California Criminal Lawyer Group, we purpose to attend to all our clients and offer the best legal counsel we can. Our team consists of the best criminal defense lawyers who have a wealth of experience in representing clients in cases that involve possession of drug paraphernalia. With our unique engagement with each client, we will help you get to the cause of the problem and clarify your matter in court to secure your acquittal. Alternatively, you can approach us for any legal advice you could use to present defenses. Having an attorney to help you out with the presented charges will improve your chances of penalty-reduction, even an absolvement of all charges.

The Legal Definition of Drug Paraphernalia

The term paraphernalia means any tools you can use to administer drugs into your body by smoking or injecting them. It presents several items that can match the definition, depending on how you manipulate them to take controlled substances. Objects like Methamphetamine cylinders or cocaine spoons fall within the description and could land you in trouble with the law. Additionally, paraphernalia may include other items that you could use to manufacture drugs. Thus, the extensive description sweeps through multiple objects that all have a common link to drugs.

Reasons for Arrest for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Typically, the law provides the essential elements of a crime that you must meet for an authorized officer to warrant an arrest. The guiding code is the Health and Safety law that has specific sections preventing several drug-related scenarios.

Section 11364 of the Health and Safety Code provides the prerequisite elements for a lawful arrest. You must have possessed an item that has some type of use in administering narcotics into your body. The harmful drugs, commonly known as controlled substances, should fall within the official list of banned opiates. The standard items include pipes or spoons that have a direct link to illegal drug use.

However, there is an exception to the definition in regards to syringes and hypodermic needles. The state of California recognizes these needles as legal items that do not qualify you for arrest. The move came as an effort to reduce the risk of HIV/AIDS spreading in California that was on the rise because of shared hypodermic needles. With the exception in place, users have no excuse to share these personal items and will, therefore, prevent unnecessary blood contact. Even so, you need to verify that you lawfully obtained the needles from a certified pharmacist, doctor, or any retailer who has a license from the California Board of Pharmacy.

The step to prove that you acquired these hypodermic needles within law provisions may have you present receipts of prescription or purchase. Alternatively, you could have to show several prescription forms for patients with conditions like diabetes. Most patients receive instructions on how to self inject insulin for a continuously healthy lifestyle. It is essential to notify your criminal lawyer of any request to present these documents so that he/she can help in verifying the validity of the request.

What The Prosecutor Must Prove for a Successful Conviction

Supposing you are set to begin a trial to determine whether or not you are guilty of possessing drug paraphernalia, the prosecutor will have to prove several facts. The need to establish these elements purposes to remove any doubt on the judge or jury’s mind regarding any evidence that may arise later. This way, you, as the accused, will face a fair trial and have a chance to present defenses to aid your case. If the prosecutor does not succeed in proving even one of all three elements, you stand a chance to face a less severe sentence. Also, if the prosecution fails to achieve its present standard of proving your guilt, the move places you in a better position against any overwhelming punishment.

The prosecutor has to establish that:

  1. The Items That Link You to The Crime Qualify to be Paraphernalia

According to the Health and Safety board, items that fall within the definition of paraphernalia must have a direct use to induce drugs into your body system by smoking or injecting the controlled substance. The prosecutor must prove that the items on display as evidence had a direct role in moving drugs from the surface or container they were and into your body. He or she must also demonstrate the practical use of the device to transfer the controlled substances into your body.

For example, if the object in question is a spoon, it is up to the prosecutor to explain how you used it to ingest the drug linked to your crime. While most prosecution officers rely on other circumstances that force a link to your use of drugs, this particular detail may prove difficult to establish. The difficulty enhances when the object in question has a peculiar mode of administering the drugs that authorities may not know of.

Despite the technicalities of proving that the object in question matches the definition of paraphernalia, there are some loopholes. You need to note that the description includes items or tools that are useful in drug production. If the prosecutor holds valid evidence that validates your use of such instruments, it may do much harm to your case. However, do not need to worry about such details, especially if your defense attorney presents persuasive defense presentations that shift your blame.

  1. You Were In Control of The Item Classified as Paraphernalia

The prosecutor may manage to prove that the object in question was indeed in use to inject or smoke illegal drugs. However, the information holds nobody accountable until he/she can show that you have active or passive control over the drug-administering item. For this element of the crime to hold grounds of conviction, the prosecution must prove that you either had active or constructive control over the paraphernalia. An essential point to remember is that either of these types of control is sufficient to establish the element and could cause an imminent conviction.

Active Control

When you control something actively, it means that you have direct and physical control over it. In this case, having physical contact with paraphernalia by holding it in your hand or pocket is enough to prove that you had active control over it. Additionally, the prosecutor has an added advantage if he/she presents concrete evidence that demonstrates you were manipulating the object and inserting it into your body to administer the drug. Most of this evidence is from photos or videos taken at the crime scene by the prosecutor’s witnesses or from the police officers in charge of your arrest.

Regardless of the method used to prove that you exercised active control over the paraphernalia, your lawyer can prepare several points of argument that will show your innocence or reveal a criminal procedure used to plant evidence against you. The basis of your defense will rely on the circumstances surrounding your arrest. Therefore, you should cooperate with your lawyer and provide any necessary information that could set you straight with the law.

The Constructive Control of Paraphernalia

The difference between active and passive control lies in the indirect linkage between the illegal item of drug use and your possession. Here, all the prosecutor needs to show is that you qualify to use the object to induce drugs to your body because you possess it. For example, if you own a déflagrating spoon that you continually use to burn and produce Methamphetamine, the simple fact of having it under your possessions will warrant a conviction.

Moreover, your ownership of paraphernalia could land more people in trouble if they have a habit of borrowing your drug inducing item. Conversely, you could be the one facing trial because of the same model of control. For the prosecutor to prove his/her case, all that needs proving is that you had voluntarily used the item to administer drugs or have a common tendency or relying on a shared object that serves the same purpose. The wide application of constructive control may catch up with your long after physical use of the object, as long as there is a direct association of its use.

3. The Substance in The Paraphernalia is Narcotic

Sometimes, you may fool around with harmless props that look like a real line of cocaine or heroin, much to your detriment. However, several tests run on the samples collected will easily prove whether or not you had a drug intake. For a successful conviction, the prosecutor must prove that the samples presented for tests:

  • were collected from the scene of the crime

  • assessed or tested under qualified drug laboratory technicians

  • fall within the definition of narcotic drugs

To show all this, the prosecutor needs to present a series of paperwork that verifies the set standards of sample testing, signatures from the laboratory technicians that ran the tests, and the numerical data containing the components of the samples. If the drug samples are from a different crime scene, they are invalid to your case and will probably cause a slowdown on your case. While it could be quite difficult to prove such a point in court, finding valid evidence that disproves the prosecution’s ethics and commitment to the due process of law will save you from severe penalties.

Moreover, the components of the samples should match the general data available on opiates. There is a wide range of narcotics that are classified according to the most prominent effect they cause. Some cause body stimulation while others depress healthy normal functions. Also, some hallucinogens and opioids cause different simulations of false images or sounds. Under these categories, these are the drugs that qualify to attract penalties for your case:

  • LSD (acid)

  • Cocaine

  • Heroine

  • Methamphetamine

  • Morphine

  • Mescaline

Section 11350 of the Health and Safety statute provides a comprehensive list of other narcotic drugs that fall under different classifications depending on their chemical composition and the type of high feeling they give.

Your lawyer plays a vital role in identifying weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case and evidence. Besides that, your defense attorney can refute efforts made by a prosecutor to push you into producing self-incrimination evidence. Discussing key details of the circumstances that led to your arrest will give your attorney a clearer set of facts to work on and challenge the prosecution with. You want to make sure that you do not miss any vital details that could set the difference between your conviction and acquittal.

Penalties for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

California treats the offense as a misdemeanor because possession of drug inducing tools does not necessarily prove drug usage. Therefore, the penalties are lenient on the offenders who may or may not have a drug use tendency.

If found guilty of the crime, you may face a $1000 fine penalty or up to six months in jail.

Moreover, licensed professionals have more to lose after a guilty verdict in court. If you are a medical practitioner, a teacher, a lawyer, an agent in real estate, or any other licensed job, you face detrimental consequences for your career field. The overall licensing board that regulates activities under your professional field may decide to suspend your work licenses for an indefinite period, or until you serve your time. However, the time-lapse does not warrant an automatic reinstatement of your license. Most boards will have to conduct fresh interviews and view progress reports for confirmed cases of frequent drug users. While it may not be direct, you have no reason to worry about getting your license back, especially if you have observed all probation regulations.

On top of that, several professionals for the exception to the general rules of the arrest. Licensed wholesalers may possess objects that qualify to be drug paraphernalia, provided that the possession is within permitted business contexts. Also, medical professionals have the same privilege, but only if they maintain high work ethic standards and hold the objects within the reasons for work. Other exempted professionals are:

  • Veterinarians

  • Pharmacists

  • Dentists

  • Surgeons

The bottom line is that any use of the drug paraphernalia outside work purposes can still hold them liable for prosecution. For example, if a medical doctor faces the challenge of addiction to morphine and sneaks a hypodermic needle loaded with a shot of the drug into his/her body after hours, he or she could face possession charges.

Defenses to the Crime of Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Your criminal defense lawyer should fulfill the obligation to raise the best defenses possible that will secure your freedom, or at the very least, mitigate your sentence. Careful planning and factual analysis go into crafting arguments for your case. However, your lawyer needs your help to help put the puzzle pieces together and remove any blame on you. Some of the defenses available against the crime are:

  1. You Were Not Aware That the Item in Use was Drug Paraphernalia

While maxims dictate that ignorance of the law is not a defense, the lack of knowledge concerning what is and isn’t drug paraphernalia can present a good defense. The argument falls on the absence of a criminal intention to use the item in question as a drug inducer. The defense may work well in situations where a probable conviction arises from constructive control, by way of association. The example of coming into contact with a person who constantly uses drug paraphernalia may not click in your mind, because you have minimal knowledge of these kinds of methods. Furthermore, the person with whom the prosecutor links you and the paraphernalia may have a habit of engaging in administering drugs in secret. Therefore, the defense of a lack of knowledge can save you any extended blame or links to an actual user who has direct control or manipulation of the item.

  1. You Do Not Own the Paraphernalia

Sometimes, you may become the victim of planted evidence that presents a false set of facts against you. For example, someone with access to your apartment or dorm room for college students may leave their drug paraphernalia on your desk or bed for the authorities to find later. They often do this to shift the blame to someone else for fear of arrest. Such an occurrence is common among users who become addicted and fear to face a felony sentence for repeated drug possession and use.

Your defense lawyer will have to engage several investigative officers after obtaining a court order to run some forensic work like fingerprints and DNA testing. The results will be very beneficial in proving that you have never been in contact with the items in question, nor do they belong to you. Though the work might be cumbersome and costly, you need to consider this option if you are sure of a false claim placed on you. It is always beneficial to attempt to save yourself from unwarranted suffering, especially if you have dependents who need your support. Presenting the evidence of undetected contact with the paraphernalia in court will exhibit an excellent defense that can reduce your penalties or absolve you of charges. The latter will be a good outcome for your case, as your criminal data remains clean.

  1. The Evidence Does Not Qualify as Paraphernalia

As discussed, objects that fall within a description of paraphernalia will have a direct link to drug intake. Any object could be manipulated into self-administering the controlled substance into your body. Also, the odds are stacked against you with the broad inclusion of other tools that aid in administering narcotics-for example, weighing scales and packaging material that help to disguise drugs in transit are also drug paraphernalia.

Despite the broad application, your argument lays its basis on the elements of the crime that demonstrate a direct use of the object to administer drugs. The defense falls back to the prosecutor’s duty to prove that you took a controlled substance through the direct use of the object in question. If the prosecution raises false statements regarding the mode of drug intake, the defense prevents further prejudice against the presiding judge or jury.

While this argument may not reverse the conviction, it has mitigating purposes to reduce your penalties significantly. Pairing it with any other defense will get you a suitable case outcome.

  1. The Arresting Officers Conducted an Unwarranted Search

The law dictates that all officers must produce a search authorization before invading a private residence or establishment. If your arrest arose from an unauthorized warrant that led to the discovery of paraphernalia, you could raise the defense to protect your constitutional rights. Regardless of the evidence collected from your private establishment or items, the officers need to follow the set guidelines and observe the governing law provisions.

Alternatively, if a police officer uses unnecessary force on you to conduct a body search, he or she is liable for follow up reprimanding. The justified claim also serves to protect you from illegal police conduct that undermines your fundamental freedoms. Under the given circumstances, your case may face a mitigated atmosphere because of the several violations made against you. Informing your lawyer of any crude police conduct will propel this defense and strengthen it depending on the circumstances of your case.

Find a Criminal Attorney Near Me

Facing drug crime charges is never easy, especially after making a careful assessment of what it might cost you in the future. Numerous suspects suffer a lot of stigma for crimes they may not have even taken part in. Talking to your defense lawyer and finding valid yet viable defenses to your case will secure your freedom and well being. At the California Criminal Lawyer Group, we put all your needs first. Our knowledgeable team will guide you throughout your journey to litigation and afterward. We look forward to hearing from you and offering the best litigation solutions for your case. Call us today at 408-622-0204.