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Michigan Criminal Law Blog

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What Could Be Considered Drug Paraphernalia?

If you aren’t familiar with drug culture, you might assume that identifying drug paraphernalia would be a fairly cut-and-dry issue. But let’s say you are familiar with the culture – you know then there are items that can be incorporated into drug use that are otherwise standard, daily items. Something as innocuous as a ballpoint pen or plastic baggie could be considered drug paraphernalia, but these items are far from being illegal. So if law enforcement finds an item like this during a search, should you be concerned?

The first thing you should understand is that law enforcement will use whatever it can to build its case against you. If you are suspected of doing something illegal, everything you say and do, and everything you have with you or that was near you at your time of arrest, will be construed as connected to your crime. And unfortunately, even if you stay quiet when arrested and take all the necessary precautions to keep yourself out of hot water, you can still end up in trouble based on the items you happen to have in your possession.

What is Drug Paraphernalia?

According to the US Department of Justice, under federal law the term drug paraphernalia is defined as:

"…any equipment, product or material of any kind which is primarily intended or designed for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance."

What common items might be construed as drug paraphernalia?

  • Sandwich baggies
  • Scales (digital, postage, etc.)
  • Pills outside of their original container
  • Paper currency
  • Spoons
  • Magic markers

To learn what else law enforcement considers drug paraphernalia, visit the DOJ’s “Drug Paraphernalia Fast Facts” page.

These might seem like everyday items most people have in their homes, but law enforcement tends to assume the worst. And if drugs are found nearby, such items could become what is known as “drug paraphernalia”, since they are considered things that can assist in injecting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing a controlled substance into the body.

However, in order for items that might seem related to drug use to become proof of a crime, the item is usually tested for the presence of drugs. But guess what? Depending on the item, there’s a good chance there will be traces of a drug, even if you’ve never so much as inhaled second-hand marijuana smoke. How many times have you heard stories about the amount of cash circulating that has traces of drugs on it?

Will You Be Found Guilty of a Crime?

Just to be clear, the likelihood of a conviction against you just because you were found in possession of a scale or a spoon or a rolled-up dollar bill is slight. It’s going to be close to impossible for the prosecution to prove you committed a crime if there is no other evidence the item in your possession was connected to drug use. And even if there is additional evidence, there are still a number of issues and it could take a great deal of effort to get a conviction.

The important thing to understand is that the presence of a suspicious item complicates your case. If you are pulled over in a vehicle and an illegal drug is in the vehicle, as well as an item that could be considered drug paraphernalia, proving your innocence becomes a tougher challenge.

No matter the specifics of your situation, if you have been accused of any crime related to drugs, you need an attorney on your side. For more information or to speak to someone who can help you sort through the allegations against you and build the strongest case in your defense, contact Andrew W. Kowalkowski, PLLC at 248.974.9594.

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