It is common knowledge that possessing drugs is illegal, but did you know it may also be illegal to possess certain drug related items? If the police find you possessing or selling objects that could be used for drug abuse or selling, you may be charged with criminally using drug paraphernalia. Learning about this law will help you protect yourself. This guide will answer all the questions you probably have about the charge of criminally using drug paraphernalia.
What Is Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia?
Criminally using drug paraphernalia is a crime defined in New York Penal Code 220.50 and 220.55. This crime covers anyone knowingly possessing or selling certain types of drug paraphernalia. Possessing paraphernalia counts as having it on your person, having it in your home, or having it somewhere else where you have dominion or control over the paraphernalia. Selling is defined as either selling, exchanging, giving, or offering to sell the paraphernalia to someone else. The crime is divided into two categories, criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree, and criminally using drug paraphernalia in the first degree.
What Counts As Drug Paraphernalia?
This law can be confusing for people since there are plenty of legitimate reasons to have things like a scale or plastic bags, but owning these items can become illegal in certain circumstances. Keep in mind that the key thing defining whether an object is paraphernalia or not is its potential, intended, or actual use. Drug paraphernalia is divided into three categories based on PC 220.50. It can be dilutants, adulterants, and diluents used to mix or prepare narcotic and stimulant drugs. It can also be capsules, envelopes, vials, or other packaging material used to package or dispense narcotics or stimulants. Finally, it can be any scale or balance used or intended to weigh and measure controlled narcotic and stimulant substances for dispensing. Having any of these items in a situation where it is reasonable to assume the items would be used for making, using, or selling drugs can count as criminal use of drug paraphernalia.
Is Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia a Misdemeanor or Felony?
This depends entirely on whether or not you have previously been convicted of criminally using drug paraphernalia. A first offense, or drug paraphernalia in the second degree, is a class A misdemeanor. Repeat offenses are called using drug paraphernalia in the first degree, and they are a class D felony.
What Are the Consequences of a Drug Paraphernalia Conviction?
If you are convicted of criminally using drug paraphernalia in the second degree, you may face all the consequences of a class A misdemeanor. The court can fine you up to $1,000 or double the amount of profit from your crime. They can also send you to jail for up to a year or sentence you to three years of probation. Penalties are more severe if you are convicted of the version that is a class D felony. Fines can be up to $5,000 or twice the profit from your crime. It can also come with a prison sentence of up to seven years, though some people may only get probation. There is such a huge range of potential penalties because it is left to the discretion of the court. Things like your past offenses, any violence during the crime, and the amount of drugs or paraphernalia found can affect your sentence.
How Do You Defend Against Drug Paraphernalia Charges?
Because this criminal charge is so subjective, there are plenty of potential ways to defend against charges. You may be able to argue that you were not actually in possession of paraphernalia, if it was not found on your person or in an area where you have control over the belongings. In some situations, it is also possible to defend yourself by claiming the object was not intended for use alongside narcotics or stimulants. This may involve proving the object has no traces of drug residue inside or showing the object was never near a place where drugs were found. You may need to explain reasonable uses for the item that are not drug related or challenge assumptions that you were involved with others who manufactured or dispensed drugs.
If you or someone you know has been charged with using drug paraphernalia, it is important to take this seriously. Though this charge is not quite as severe as the charges associated with actual drug possession, it can still have some unpleasant consequences. Having a talented lawyer will ensure you get the best possible outcome for your case. Set up a free consultation with Spodek Law Group