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What Qualifies as Drug Paraphernalia?

Understanding what qualifies as drug paraphernalia can be tricky. While the possession of drugs is a criminal offense in the state of South Carolina, the possession and distribution of drug paraphernalia is considered a civil offense and is punishable by a fine of up to $500. In general, drug paraphernalia is defined as any instrument or device which aids in the ingestion or administration of illegal substances.

Determining what can and cannot be considered drug paraphernalia depends on many factors, including your access to the paraphernalia and the circumstances surrounding your charge.

South Carolina Laws

According to Section 44-53-110, “Paraphernalia” is used to cover any device, instrument, object, or instrument intended or designed to help a person take, smoke, ingest, make, or prepare any controlled substance. The law specifically excludes cigarette papers and pipes for smoking tobacco from this definition.

According to Section 44-53-391,  it’s illegal to sell, advertise for sale, manufacture, own, possess, deliver, or have with the intent to deliver or sell, paraphernalia.

According to Section 44-53-391, when a court or some other authority makes a determination about whether a particular object is actually paraphernalia, they’ll consider the statutes and any other relevant factors. They may also evaluate other information, such as:

  • How close the object was to any controlled substances
  • Any statements about its use made by whoever owned or controlled the object
  • Whether or not any controlled substance residue was on or in the object.

Types of Charges

Determining what is and is not drug paraphernalia depends largely on the circumstances surrounding your charge. In general, many of the following artifacts may be considered drug paraphernalia:

  • Bongs
  • Plastic bags
  • Needles
  • Small spoons
  • Syringes
  • Lighters
  • Glue
  • Small mirrors
  • Straws
  • Pipes (but not tobacco pipes)
  • Bowls

In addition to the type of paraphernalia you’re caught with, there are circumstantial factors that may play a role in determining whether or not you’ll be charged. These factors include:

  • Constructive possession vs. active possession: The type of possession you’re determined to have can be an important factor in a drug paraphernalia charge. Constructive possession is when you have drug paraphernalia within your control, but perhaps not within your immediate possession. An example of such a circumstance would be holding paraphernalia in the glove compartment of your vehicle. Active possession is when you are caught with drug paraphernalia on your person with the intent to use it or administer drugs with it.
  • Connection to Drug Possession: If a court is considering your drug paraphernalia charge, they will also take any previous drug possession charges into consideration. They may consider factors such as the amount of an illegal substance with which you were caught, the number of times you’ve been charged with drug possession, and your intent to sell or distribute.
  • Use and Intent: Even though there are some instruments and devices that are often associated with drug use, many types of drug paraphernalia have purposes outside of their connection to illegal substances. For example, plastic bags and straws may not always be intended for use with drugs and therefore may not always be charged as drug paraphernalia.

Penalties for a Charge

Individuals may be ticketed and fined up to $500 for possession of paraphernalia. Corporations charged with possession and/or distribution of paraphernalia may be punished with a fine of up to $50,000. While this is not a criminal charge, it is a civil citation and will be listed on your record.

Need Help? Call Truslow & Truslow

When you’ve been issued a citation for possession or distribution of drug paraphernalia, you’re likely uncertain about what to do next. After all, you don’t want that citation on your permanent record.

The attorneys at Truslow & Truslow are here to help. We’ve been representing clients like you for many years, working to get the citation dropped or otherwise minimized. We have a variety of strategies we can use to argue that the citation was invalid, including illegal search and seizure, that the items weren’t yours or weren’t knowingly in your possession, and others.

When you call us at (803) 256-6276, you’ll get a confidential consultation with one of our attorneys so that you can determine the best course of action in your drug paraphernalia ticket case.

Don’t try to handle this on your own. You need an experienced attorney to look out for your rights and to make sure you don’t fall into any traps that will make the citation stick to your record when it could have been done away with. Let us help. Call today.

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