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How to determine whether items are drug paraphernalia

Many things can lead to a drug-related charge. One that many people don't think about is the paraphernalia that's used to make, use or sell drugs. These charges are just as serious as those that involve actual drugs.

It is imperative for everyone to know a few points about drug paraphernalia, partly because there are some instances in which a person might face charges for this even if they don't have any drugs.

How does the law view drug paraphernalia?

Any items that are considered drug paraphernalia are illegal. There are federal laws against these items. They are found in U.S. Code Title 21, Section 863. The issue that many people face is that some of the items that are considered paraphernalia are made easily available because they are marketed as though they can be used for legitimate purposes.

How is the purpose of the paraphernalia determined?

When potential paraphernalia is found, the authorities will investigate the items. Items that might be involved in the drug trade may be tested to determine whether there is residue on them. Often, this is done using on-site preliminary kits and then the items are sent for formal testing after they're collected as evidence.

Sometimes, items around the suspected paraphernalia are clues. For example, a digital scale in the trunk of a vehicle is suspicious, especially when there are also small baggies near it. A digital scale in a kitchen likely wouldn't be considered suspicious since it would be assumed that it's being used for weighing meat or food items, particularly ingredients for preparing dishes.

What kinds of items are considered banned paraphernalia?

The federal government names several specific examples of what's forbidden paraphernalia. These include freebase cocaine kits, crack smoking items, miniature spoons with less than one-tenth of a cubic centimeter capacity, roach clips, and various types of bongs and pipes. Other items are also forbidden, so think carefully if you're handed anything that might fall under this umbrella.

What should you do if you're accused of having paraphernalia?

You need to work on your defense strategy quickly if you're accused of this crime. Even though you might not think it is serious, it can impact the rest of your life. It will show up on your criminal record, which can mean that you're passed over by some employers. Some landlords might reject your application based on criminal convictions. Be discerning as you work out your defense strategy for these charges.

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