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What Constitutes Possession Of Drug Paraphernalia?
When someone uses drugs, they often require what is known as drug paraphernalia in order to do it properly. For example, if someone smokes marijuana, the paper they use to roll the drug into a cigarette counts as drug paraphernalia – any item used to “conceal, store, cultivate [ … ] or process” a controlled substance qualifies. In most states, possession of drug paraphernalia is a minor, even non-criminal offense, but Florida makes it a first-degree misdemeanor – which means that if you have been charged with this, it is crucial you take it seriously.
Florida Imposes Harsh Sentences
Florida, as a state, has had a long and difficult history with drugs and those who sell them, from the “Cocaine Cowboys” of the 1980s to the “pill mills” of the 1990s and 2000s. In turn, this has made the legislature impose very tough and unforgiving sentences on those who use, possess, or sell drugs, so as to prevent a repeat of such behavior. Even first-time offenders can face jail time, significant fines and costs.
Possession of drug paraphernalia is sometimes seen as an “alternative” or “replacement” charge if law enforcement cannot get enough evidence to charge someone with possession of drugs, and because of this, the legal definition of ‘drug paraphernalia’ is extremely broad. Examples include scales, spoons, plastic bags, syringes, needles, and tin foil or duct tape – all of which have other, perfectly legitimate uses, but police may still sometimes use their presence as a reason for an arrest.
Defenses To The Charge
While it is easy for law enforcement to charge a person with possession of drug paraphernalia, it is actually much more difficult for a person to be convicted of the charge. In order to prove possession of drug paraphernalia beyond a reasonable doubt, a prosecutor must establish not only that you had the item in your possession – for example, a syringe or a needle – but that it was truly intended to be used as drug paraphernalia. There is a long list of factors that a court must consider in order to determine the item’s ultimate intended use (and the defendant’s guilt or innocence).
In addition to the question of the item’s intended use, a defendant may also argue procedural irregularities such as a failure to Mirandize a person, or a lack of probable cause, as a defense. Even if you are found to possess drug paraphernalia, evidence found during an unlawful search cannot be used in court, which means that a reasonable doubt as to your guilt would still (at least in theory) exist. An attorney experienced in these types of cases can be a great help.
Contact A West Palm Beach Drug Paraphernalia Attorney
Being found in possession of drug paraphernalia may feel like an inconsequential charge, but the time and money it costs you can add up to a big problem. If you have been charged with this offense, calling a West Palm Beach drug crimes attorney from the firm of Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can help ensure that your rights are protected in court. Contact our office today to speak to an attorney.