Possession of drug paraphernalia is actually a worse charge to get than possession of less than a ½ oz. of marijuana. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a level one misdemeanor and depending on your past criminal history can result in some active jail time. Possession of less than ½ oz. of marijuana on the other hand is a level three misdemeanor (lowest) and the statute that controls it specifies no jail time.
The other problem with a paraphernalia charge is the fact that your criminal record does not give specifics as to what the actual paraphernalia was. A potential employer who sees “Possession of Drug Paraphernalia” on a criminal record might think heroin needles rather than rolling papers. When you consider it in that light, at least a charge of marijuana possession is straightforward.
To make matters worse, the paraphernalia statute is very broad and can serve as a catchall; it can stick even when no narcotics are found with the alleged paraphernalia. A good example is a pack of rolling papers and nothing else, if the officer sees the papers within your reach, and he is lawfully there, you could be arrested for paraphernalia if you admit that you use the papers for smoking marijuana, even if there is no marijuana to be found. The same is true for a scale, a grinder, and plant growing materials. If he asks and you admit to using it to ingest, grow, package, harvest, prepare, test, weigh etc., any type of illegal drugs, you could be charged.
That is only one example, the police can take many different factors into consideration to determine if something is just an ordinary object or paraphernalia, the law actually states:
- The following, along with all other relevant evidence, may be considered in determining whether an object is drug paraphernalia:
- Statements by the owner or anyone in control of the object concerning its use;
- Prior convictions of the owner or other person in control of the object for violations of controlled substances law;
- The proximity of the object to a violation of the Controlled Substances Act;
- The proximity of the object to a controlled substance;
- The existence of any residue of a controlled substance on the object;
- The proximity of the object to other drug paraphernalia;
- Instructions provided with the object concerning its use;
- Descriptive materials accompanying the object explaining or depicting its use;
- Advertising concerning its use;
- The manner in which the object is displayed for sale;
- Whether the owner, or anyone in control of the object, is a legitimate supplier of like or related items to the community, such as a seller of tobacco products or agricultural supplies;
- Possible legitimate uses of the object in the community;
- Expert testimony concerning its use;
- The intent of the owner or other person in control of the object to deliver it to persons whom he knows or reasonably should know intend to use the object to facilitate violations of the Controlled Substances Act.
Fortunately, many objects that are considered paraphernalia do have other legal uses, and can create reasonable doubt in the mind of a judge or jury. To sum it up, if you are about to catch a paraphernalia charge, keep your mouth shut and call an attorney.
You can read the entire NC statute that makes paraphernalia a catchall here.