It’s not just a crime to possess drugs in the state of California. It’s also illegal to possess items or tools that help you use or consume those drugs. The state takes all drug crimes very seriously.
As a result, you can face very serious criminal charges if you’re found in possession of drug paraphernalia.
Have you been arrested for drug paraphernalia possession in Los Angeles? You need to understand your legal rights and options. Contact the experienced criminal defense team at the Rodriguez Law Group for immediate assistance. We understand that your future is at stake and will fight to protect it. Call today to schedule your free consultation and learn more.
California Health & Safety Code 11364 HSC
Under California Health and Safety Code 11364 HSC, it is illegal to possess “any device, contrivance, instrument, or paraphernalia used for unlawfully injecting or smoking a controlled substance.” In other words, it’s a crime to possess items that help or aid in the consumption of an illegal drug.
Drug paraphernalia can include:
- Cocaine spoons
- Methamphetamine pipes
- Opium pipes
- Metal, ceramic, or glass pipes
- Glass vials, and
Exclusions Under 11364 HSC
Until 2021, syringes and hypodermic needles secured from a doctor or needle exchange program are not considered drug paraphernalia under 11364 HSC.
Health and Safety Code Section 11364 HSC doesn’t apply to certain items that are used in the production, manufacture, and distribution of illegal drugs. Commonly excluded items scales, baggies, bowls, blenders, and mixing devices. Possession of these items is typically prosecuted under California’s drug sale and distribution laws.
Unlawful Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Just because you’ve been charged with possession of drug paraphernalia it doesn’t mean that you will be convicted of the crime. The state has to persuade a judge or jury that you are guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. To do this, prosecutors will have to prove:
- You unlawfully possessed drug paraphernalia
- You knew that you possessed the item; and
- You knew it was an object used to smoke or inject a controlled substance.
Simply put, the state has to prove that you knowingly possessed an item that you knew was used to inject or smoke an illegal drug.
What is Possession?
You must have possession of the drug paraphernalia to be convicted under 11364 HSC. This possession can be actual or constructive.
Actual possession means that you are in physical contact with or control of an item. For example, you’d be considered to have actual possession of drug paraphernalia that’s in your hands, pockets, or backpack that you’re wearing.
Constructive possession means that you know about and have the ability to control an item, even if it’s not in your physical custody. For example, you’d be considered to have constructive possession of drug paraphernalia that’s in your car, home, or personal belongings.
Knowledge of Presence and Use
It’s not enough to unlawfully possess drug paraphernalia. You must also know of the item’s
- Presence, and
- Purpose as a tool to inject or smoke a controlled substance.
In other words, you have to know that you have possession of an item that is used as drug paraphernalia. This helps to protect you if the item is planted on you or in your things, or if you are truly innocent to what the item is used for.
Penalties for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Possession of drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor offense in California. The maximum penalty can include:
- 6 months in a Los Angeles County Jail, and/or
- $1,000 in criminal fines.
However, a conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia can also have non-criminal repercussions. These social and civil penalties, known as collateral consequences, exist because you have a criminal record. Collateral consequences for a criminal drug conviction can include:
- Difficulty finding or keeping a job
- Loss of professional job licenses
- Changes to child custody and/or visitation rights, and
- Possible loss of government benefits.
Defending Drug Paraphernalia Possession Charges
You have the right to defend yourself when you’re accused of a crime. The stronger your arguments, the harder it will be for the state to build a strong case against you. The following defenses may be helpful in your criminal case for possession of drug paraphernalia:
- You weren’t aware you had the paraphernalia in your possession
- The paraphernalia was not in your possession
- The paraphernalia belongs to someone else
- The item is not used to inject or smoke a controlled substance
- The paraphernalia was discovered during an illegal search, or
- Your arrest was unlawful.
The best defense will be led by an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer. Call the Rodriguez Law Group to find out how we can help you with your criminal case today.
Are you facing drug paraphernalia charges in Los Angeles? Do not hesitate to contact the criminal defense team at the Rodriguez Law Group. We have more than two decades of experience handling drug paraphernalia cases.
As a former prosecutor, Ambrosio Rodriguez has a unique perspective on criminal law in California. He will use his knowledge and experience to provide you with the best defense possible. Call our Los Angels office today to schedule a free case assessment and learn more.