Drug Paraphernalia Can Result in Misdemeanor and Felony Charges
It’s not hard to find a variety of drug paraphernalia being sold around the Dallas area. In fact, there are numerous wholesalers along Harry Hines Boulevard who specialize in supplying them to head shops and convenience stores.
It is that proliferation of the different types of pipes and apparatus that create some misconceptions about the law, and consequences for buying or possessing property that can be used for recreational drug use.
In this article, we’ll talk about State and Federal laws regarding drug paraphernalia, and what citizens need to know about the legal consequences for possessing, selling or using them in Texas.
How the Law Defines Drug Paraphernalia
What delineates a glass or plastic object from a legal use item (for the consumption of non-THC hemp or tobacco products) versus drug paraphernalia comes down to the intended use of the object and tool.
According to the Texas Controlled Substances Act, Section 481.125, any item that can be used in the course of manufacturing, or consuming illegal recreational drugs, or involved in the packaging or distribution of drugs is a crime.
It is the intentional purpose, and not just the actual device or tool, that defines the possibility of a criminal charge. And this is where many people unknowingly run into legal problems; if you assume that by using a household item instead of an identifiable glass or metal pipe that you are immune to being charged, both State and Federal laws clearly state to the contrary.
That can include a spoon, a cup, a plastic water bottle, a bowl or anything that has been modified for use as a drug inhalation or production device. Almost anything that is used for the production, distribution or consumption of a controlled substance can result in a paraphernalia charge.
This can include (but is not limited to):
- Possession of a kit, materials, mixtures or equipment used for the preparation or propagation of controlled substances.
- Isomerization devices used for distilling or increasing the potency of a species of plant that is used for recreational drug purposes.
- Testing equipment that is used to analyze the strength, purity or strength of any plant or compound that is determined to be a controlled substance.
- Scales that are used for weighing or measuring packages for sale and distribution of illegal drugs.
- Possession of dilutants, including quinine, hydrochloride, mannitol, inositol, nicotinamide, dextrose, lactose or blotter-type materials or filler substances that are used as a base for drug manufacturing.
- Cleaning tools such as sifters, used for separating twigs and seeds in the refinement process of marijuana production and distribution.
- Any mixing tools including bowls, blenders, containers and even spoons that are stored in the same area as other drug manufacturing devices.
- Small envelopes, zip bags or ‘dime bags’, packages, cartons or containers with hidden storage compartments (such as shaving cream cans with removable bottoms for drug storage).
- Hypodermic needles and syringes.
It is important to note that drug residue does not have to be present on any of the tools or devices, to constitute a paraphernalia charge. However, the presence of drugs on the premises, in the vehicle or on the person detained will result in additional charges, and further strengthen the prosecution for paraphernalia with the intent to use or distribute illegal substances.
Even homemade devices engineered from common household goods can be deemed paraphernalia by law enforcement. This includes:
- A water pipe or bong.
- A carburation mask (gas mask).
- A chamber pipe.
- An electronic rechargeable or battery operated vape.
- A glass or ceramic pipe with a bowl (and/or carburetor).
- An acrylic, glass, stone, wooden, plastic or any other material pipe.
- A removable metal screen that is placed on top of a pipe.
- Soda or metal cans modified for the consumption of drugs.
Some of the paraphernalia charges that have caught some people by surprise, involve a clean wood carved pipe (with no drug residue). Law enforcement offers can determine by the size of the pipe and bowl, whether it is intended for use for tobacco products, or for cannabis and other illegal controlled substances. Traveling to a party with a pipe that has no residue, even if you are not in possession of any controlled substances, can still result in a misdemeanor charge for paraphernalia.
What Are the Possible Legal Consequences of a Drug Paraphernalia Charge in Texas?
The severity of the legal consequences for simply possessing a device used for illegal substances are severe, and often quite surprising to individuals who are charged for the first time. Did you know that a simple paraphernalia charge can result in steep fines and jail time? Even if you are arrested without any quantity of narcotics or recreational controlled substances on your person?
There are different charges that can be levied against any citizen in possession of drug paraphernalia in Texas. And this will seem confusing also, because of the proliferation of paraphernalia for sale in common places, like convenience stores. Retailers themselves, are taking a risk by selling pipes and other merchandise.
For a simple possession, which involves the device without additional drugs found on the person, in their vehicle, boat or home, a Class C misdemeanor charge is common, with a fine up to $500.00. However, if the individual is found to be in possession of, distributing or even wholesaling paraphernalia as a business, that individual can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, with jail sentencing that can be up to one-year of incarceration, and a $4,000.00 fine (even for first time offenses). Second time paraphernalia charges offer extended fines and more jail time.
If an individual or business owner is found selling drug paraphernalia to a minor (under the age of 18) in the State of Texas, it is considered to be a felony offense. Once an individual has been charged with selling paraphernalia to a minor, any subsequent charges of possession or sale of paraphernalia will result in further felony charges. This makes the retail sale of paraphernalia a ‘risky business’ for convenience stores and retailers.
Can You Lose Your Driver’s License as a Result of a Paraphernalia Charge?
Whether it is a first time or subsequent offense, citizens in Texas can lose their driver’s license after being charged with possession of drug paraphernalia. It does not matter whether you were in your vehicle at the time of the search and arrest, or not. If convicted, a driver over the age of 21 years can receive a 180-day license suspension. If they are younger than 21 years of age, that suspension can range from six months to a full year.
I know it’s confusing since these devices are literally sold almost everywhere you look across our city, but you do not have to be in possession of drugs to be charged for simply owning and having paraphernalia on your person or property.
Do you know someone who was recently charged with possession of drug paraphernalia in Dallas? The impact of even a Class A misdemeanor on your license can result in issues for individuals who are required to be bondable for employment, and it can also significantly impact motor vehicle insurance rates upon conviction. Contact Britt Redden today to schedule a free legal consultation.
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