Some of the most innocuous household items can turn into an arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia, especially when combined with other circumstances or evidence of criminal behavior. A plastic zipper bag, food scale, or even a piece of fruit become illegal contraband under some interpretations of North Carolina’s drug laws. Though the implications are less severe for possession of marijuana paraphernalia as compared to possession of drug paraphernalia for other controlled substances, a conviction could lead to serious criminal penalties and other consequences you didn’t expect.
However, because the prosecution’s burden requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt, there are multiple opportunities to defend against a drug paraphernalia charge. Hiring an experienced Charlotte drug lawyer from Randall & Stump, PLLC is the key to raising this doubt, which could lead to a dismissal or acquittal.
North Carolina Drug Laws on Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
In addition to defining offenses for possession, sale, and trafficking in controlled substances, the North Carolina law contains provisions regarding certain drug-related items. This law makes it illegal to possess any paraphernalia when the intent is for drug:
- Concealment on the body, in a vehicle, or in a residence
- Other types of prohibited usage
However, there are two categories of possession of drug paraphernalia under NC law:
Possession of Paraphernalia for Other Controlled Substances (North Carolina General Statutes [NCGS] § 90-113.22)
If you have any items of drug paraphernalia on your person, and circumstances indicate that you intend to commit a crime involving controlled substances, other than marijuana, the offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Possession of Marijuana Paraphernalia (NCGS § 90-113.22A)
North Carolina has not decriminalized marijuana, but the severity of punishment for possessing marijuana paraphernalia is lower as compared to other controlled substances. If charged with possession of marijuana paraphernalia, you will face a Class 3 misdemeanor if you’re caught with items that demonstrate an intent to commit marijuana crimes.
While you may think that glass pipe or “tobacco” grinder you bought at the local smoke shop isn’t a big deal, under the wrong circumstances, both could be considered Marijuana Paraphernalia and result in you facing criminal charges. Depending on the use of certain items, what we may consider to be innocent and everyday things (ex. Ziplock baggies, Tupperware containers, etc.), could also result in criminal charges. Under N.C.G.S. § 90-113.22A, it is a Class 3 Misdemeanor to possess with the intent to use marijuana paraphernalia to, among other things, plant, grow, package, store, conceal, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce marijuana into the body. While the legislature loosened it position on marijuana paraphernalia in 2014 by reducing it to a Class 3 misdemeanor, possession of marijuana paraphernalia is still illegal in North Carolina and the result of a conviction of your record can be tremendous.
The criminal defense lawyers of Randall & Stump, PLLC have extensive experience defending clients just like you. We also frequently defend college students and work to mitigate the damage by pursuing dismissal or, if necessary, proceeding to trial to prove your innocence.
Drug Paraphernalia That Could Lead to Your Arrest
The law includes several categories of items that could result in charges, and the language is extremely broad. Almost any household or personal articles may be unlawful if they can be used to commit a drug crime. Such items include:
- Pipes, bongs, grinders, and rolling papers
- Spoons, hypodermic needles, and e-cigarettes
- Scales, and other measuring equipment
- Plastic baggies, containers, film canisters, prescription bottles and storage devices
- Kits for planting, growing, or manufacturing controlled substances
- Testing and cleaning utensils
Note that you can also be arrested for drug possession in Charlotte, NC if there’s any trace amount or residue within the drug paraphernalia item that’s in your possession. Therefore, you could also face additional misdemeanor or felony charges depending upon the amount and type of the drug.
Drug Paraphernalia Penalties
The punishments for a conviction on drug paraphernalia charges vary depending on the type of drug the paraphernalia is being used for, but generally includes:
Class 3 Misdemeanor
If you are convicted for possession of marijuana paraphernalia, you could be face up to 20 days in jail, and be sentenced to pay fines reaching $200. In many cases, you may be eligible for probation if you have no criminal history and there are no other offenses connected to your marijuana paraphernalia charge. Additionally, depending on a number of factors, the charge may be able to be dismissed and an experienced drug lawyer knows the strategies for approaching the prosecutor and negotiating this outcome.
Class 1 Misdemeanor
When your conviction is for possession of drug paraphernalia related to controlled substances other than marijuana, a judge could sentence you to up to 120 days in jail. You will likely be required to pay a fine, but the amount depends upon the circumstances surrounding your case. As with possession of marijuana paraphernalia, depending on a number of factors, the charge may be able to be dismissed.
Collateral Consequences of a Conviction
Even though drug paraphernalia and marijuana paraphernalia charges are a misdemeanor offense, the conviction impacts every area of your life. You could have difficulties with current or future employment, and your professional license could be revoked. Additional concerns may involve:
- Educational opportunities
- Loans and student financial aid
- Your housing and living arrangements
- Child custody and visitation matters
- Immigration issues
- Revocation of certain professional licenses, such as a nursing license or medical license
Defenses to Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
In addition to options for reducing your sentence to probation, a criminal defense attorney may be able to get a drug paraphernalia or marijuana paraphernalia charge dropped entirely. One approach is to expose weaknesses in the prosecution’s case against you. The prosecutor must be able to prove that you were using an item with the intent to commit a crime involving controlled substances. This can be a heavy burden with some utensils, equipment, or everyday devices that have a legitimate, non-criminal use.
Plus, you may have other arguments against drug paraphernalia charges. An important defense involves your constitutional rights, as police are prohibited from conducting unlawful searches and seizures. If evidence was obtained in violation of your rights, these items are not admissible in court and cannot be used against you. Depending on the facts of your case, our Charlotte drug lawyers can tell you more about how to get a drug paraphernalia or marijuana paraphernalia charge dropped after reviewing the details of your case.