POSSESSION OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA
Drug paraphernalia charges are common in Las Vegas. Although possession of drug paraphernalia is only a misdemeanor, a conviction for this offense can still result in serious criminal penalties, including fines and jail time. Below, read about how drug paraphernalia is defined by Nevada law, then read about the potential punishment for this criminal offense,
WHAT IS DRUG PARAPHERNALIA?
Generally speaking, under Nevada law, drug paraphernalia is defined very broadly, and includes any object or product that helps a person use illegal drugs. More specifically, NRS 453.554 defines drug paraphernalia as "all equipment, products and materials of any kind which are used, intended for use, or designed for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, concealing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance."
The most common objects charged as drug paraphernalia are pipes used to smoke marijuana or methamphetamine, but if you read the above definition, you will see that many other objects can be charged as drug paraphernalia. NRS 453.554 includes a list of things which are considered drug paraphernalia. The list is not exhaustive, but merely illustrative. Notably, the list includes the following:
- Kits used to grow marijuana;
- Drug testing kits;
- Scales used to weigh drugs;
- Substances used to cut cocaine;
- Cocaine spoons and cocaine vials;
- Various kinds of pipes including water pipes;
- Roach clips.
Again, this list is not exhaustive. It merely provides a list of common drug paraphernalia. What ultimately determines whether something is considered drug paraphernalia is the intent of the person who possesses the object in question. So, for instance, a person can own various pipes so long as he intends to use them only for smoking tobacco or other legal substances.
NRS 453.556 provides a list of "factors" for a court to determine whether any given object is drug paraphernalia. In this context, factors are simply a list of facts for the judge to consider when deciding whether any given object is drug paraphernalia under Nevada law. Those factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Statements the accused person made about the object (e.g., that a pipe was used to smoke marijuana);
- Prior drug convictions;
- The proximity of the object to controlled substances (i.e. whether actual drugs are found nearby);
- Drug residue on the object;
- Written instructions included with the object;
- Advertising for the object or product;
- Expert testimony that a certain object is used in connection with drugs.
Again, this list simply provides some factors that can be considered in determining whether or not any given object is drug paraphernalia.
Under NRS 453.566, any person who uses drug paraphernalia or possesses drug paraphernalia with the intent to use it is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
Under NRS 453.560, selling or manufacturing drug paraphernalia is a category E felony, punishable by 1 to 4 years in Nevada prison. Because this offense is a category E felony, probation is mandatory (i.e., the sentence of imprisonment must be suspended).
NRS 453.562, a person who is over 18 years old and gives drug paraphernalia to a minor 3 years his junior is guilty of a category C felony, punishable by 1 to 5 years in Nevada prison and a $10,000 fine.
Under NRS 453.564, advertising drug paraphernalia in printed media is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine.
DEFENDING DRUG PARAPHERNALIA CHARGES
If you are facing drug paraphernalia charges, you should consult a criminal lawyer to talk about your case. Although drug paraphernalia charges are usually misdemeanors, they can still result in substantial fines or jail time. This is true especially if the charges arise in Municipal Court.
Often, people who are charged with possession of a controlled substance in Las Vegas Justice Court will also be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia in Las Vegas Municipal Court (provided the person arrested possessed something that could be characterized as drug paraphernalia at the time of the arrest). Thus, one drug arrest can result in two criminal cases to deal with. A common fact pattern in these cases is that a person is arrested while in possession of marijuana and a marijuana pipe. The marijuana charge will likely be brought in Justice Court while the paraphernalia charge will be brought in Municipal Court. Ironically, sometimes a felony drug possession charge in Justice Court may be easier to resolve favorably than a misdemeanor drug paraphernalia charge in Municipal Court.
As with any other criminal charge, in order to convict you of drug paraphernalia charges, the prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, the prosecutors must prove not only that the object in question was actually drug paraphernalia, but that you actually possessed the object. Many times, in drug paraphernalia cases, the evidence of guilt may be strong. For instance, a person might be arrested while he has a marijuana pipe in his pocket, covered in residue. Even in such an instance, it may be possible to suppress evidence if a search was conducted illegally. But even when the evidence is strong and there are no viable suppression issues, a criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate your case to avoid the worst criminal penalties.
I have helped many people charged with possessing drug paraphernalia in Las Vegas and throughout Clark County, Nevada. Call me now to discuss your case. Consultations are free.
By Michael Pandullo