What exactly is Drug Paraphernalia?
Drug Paraphernalia is defined in Chapter 481 of the Texas Health and Safety Code as “any item that can be used as a drug processing, packaging, or consumption mechanism.” It is a Class C Misdemeanor and can be charged in addition to other offenses such as possession of marijuana. For example, if your pipe has marijuana in it then you can expect to be charged with both paraphernalia and possession.
This extremely broad definition above enables law enforcement to call almost anything paraphernalia. This includes common household items, like sandwich bags, and items bought legally at smoke shops, like pipes. Basically, if an item can be used in any way to aid in consuming or distributing drugs, then it could possibly be paraphernalia. Common examples include:
- Glass, metal, or wooden pipes
- Water pipes or bongs
- Gas masks
- Roach Clips
- Rolling Papers
- Spoons or breakers for injectable drugs
- Tubes for powdered drugs
This list is not exhaustive and it doesn’t mean that getting pulled over with a spoon in your car from lunch will result in a paraphernalia charge. In order to be found guilty of drug paraphernalia, the prosecutor must prove that the item in question has already been used or is intended to be used in connection with illegal drugs.
Penalties for Drug Paraphernalia
The penalties for possession of Drug Paraphernalia will vary depending on the criminal history of the person and the facts surrounding the offense. Generally, “Possession of Drug Paraphernalia” is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by a maximum fine of $500. However, if you are a repeat offender, this penalty can be upgraded to include the possibility of jail time.
It should be noted that SELLING drug paraphernalia is a completely different offense than merely possessing it. “Selling Drug Paraphernalia” is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, you could face penalties of up to 1-year in jail and a maximum fine of $4000. Additionally, selling drug paraphernalia to someone under the age of 18 is a State Jail Felony.
So how does a smoke shop exist with these laws? Because smoke shops sell products that are technically only intended to be used in conjunction with legalsubstances. Hence why they always make you call their products by specific terms such as “water pipes” instead of bongs.
Drug Paraphernalia and your Driver’s license
The average Texan probably doesn’t realize that ANY type of drug conviction will lead to a driver’s license suspension (e.g. drug paraphernalia or possession of marijuana). This is true even if you’re NOT operating a motor vehicle at the time you commit the offense. If your case is not dismissed or you do not receive a deferred adjudication for your drug offense then your license will be suspended for:
- 180 days if you are older than 21
- 1-year if you are under 21
You will also be required to complete a 15-hour class in an authorized Drug Education Program for each conviction before your license will be reinstated. If you do not have a license at the time of your conviction, then the suspension will begin when you contact the DPS about receiving a driver’s license.
While drug paraphernalia is not a life altering offense, it can still be a big hassle in your everyday life. A drug-offense conviction on your record is a basically an invitation for a police officer to ask if he can search your vehicle anytime you get pulled over. Additionally, it can be a major inconvenience if you are convicted and receive a license suspension.
The purpose of this piece is to inform you about what COULD be considered paraphernalia so that you know when you’re taking a risk. Should you be unlucky and receive a paraphernalia ticket, it is always a wise choice to hire an attorney to argue that whatever was found was not intended to be used in conjunction with drugs. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t delay, pick up the phone and call us at Third Coast Law today!