By: Mark Diaz
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Why You Should Retain A Lawyer For Drug Paraphernalia Charges
Most people know that illegal drug possession is illegal in Texas. But it is just as against the law to possess drug paraphernalia, which includes many everyday household items. Learn about Texas drug paraphernalia charges below and how they can affect your life in many ways.
If you have been charged with possessing drug paraphernalia in Texas, it is vital to retain qualified legal counsel immediately to mitigate the potential negative outcomes. Speak to one of our Harris County drug possession attorneys at Mark Diaz & Associates today for a free consultation about your case.
Table of Contents
How Is Drug Paraphernalia Defined In Texas?
According to the Texas Health and Safety Code, drug paraphernalia includes products, equipment, or materials used to cultivate, plant, produce, manufacture, package, store, process, or conceal illicit drugs. It also states that an object you use to inhale, inject, or consume an illegal drug is drug paraphernalia. Some items that the police may deem drug paraphernalia are:
- Plastic baggies
- Plastic containers
- Roach clips
- Baking scales
- Purity testing equipment
- Rolling papers
- UV lights
You can be hit with a drug paraphernalia charge if law enforcement thinks you were using or selling drugs, even if the drugs themselves are not in your possession. Just having some of the drug paraphernalia items above in your possession can cause problems.
Penalties For Possessing Drug Paraphernalia In Texas
It is illegal in Texas to possess, use, or deliver illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia. If you are convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia, it is usually a Class C misdemeanor, and you can be fined up to $500.
Furthermore, it is against state law to deliver or make drug paraphernalia. If you are convicted of this charge, it is a Class A misdemeanor, and the punishment is up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000. If you deliver or attempt to deliver drug paraphernalia to a minor, you may be charged with a state jail felony. This is punishable by at least six months and up to two years in a state jail. The fine is a maximum of $10,000.
You could also lose your driver’s license for a conviction for possessing drug paraphernalia. Even if you were not driving when you were arrested, your license could be suspended for six months, and if you are under 21, it could be suspended for a year.
Mandatory minimum sentences apply for subsequent offenses, so you could get more jail time in certain cases. For instance, if you were convicted previously for delivering drugs or paraphernalia to a minor, you could be changed under an enhancement statute – meaning, your minimum jail sentence would be 90 days.
The penalties mentioned here show how important it is to hire an expert criminal defense attorney in Harris County if you are arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia.
What About Legitimate Uses Of Drug Paraphernalia?
A common problem with a Texas drug paraphernalia charge is that some items have legitimate uses and are not against the law. For example, you could have a spoon in your pocket that the police say is used for taking drugs. But, of course, a spoon also has many legitimate purposes.
Further, smoke shops and head shops in Texas sell water pipes, rolling paper, and vaporizers. You can use a water pipe for tobacco or aromatic herbs. Rolling papers can be used to roll cigarettes. It is challenging from a legal perspective for the police to raid these stores to bust drug offenders.
So, many of these establishments operate in a gray zone legally. For instance, if you purchase rolling papers in a smoke shop, your attorney will argue that you did so for a legitimate purpose: to roll cigarettes and save money.
But if you drive to a Harris County head shop and buy a bong, it might be called drug paraphernalia by the police if you are pulled over. That is an excellent reason to put these questionable items in your trunk before driving home. While you can argue to the police that you are using them legally, it is best if they never see them at all during a traffic stop.
What Are Defenses For A Drug Paraphernalia Charge?
State law requires you to possess drug paraphernalia for a conviction knowingly. So, if the state prosecutor cannot prove you knew you had the items, you cannot be convicted. Your attorney will make the prosecutor show their evidence that you knew the items were in your possession. This can be challenging to prove, and your attorney might secure a dismissal because of insufficient evidence.
Next, the police must have probable cause to search you or your vehicle. The police often pull people over without reason, and any drug paraphernalia in the car might be inadmissible if your rights were violated.
Another defense is that the prosecution has to prove that you possessed the paraphernalia with the intent to use it with illicit drugs. These items have many legal uses. For instance, you might have a scale in your car, which you can argue was for kitchen use. Plastic baggies are for storing food, and a lighting system in your home is for growing tomatoes.
If law enforcement accuses you of possessing illegal drugs as well as paraphernalia, your attorney could claim that there is not enough evidence that the substances are prohibited. It is possible the equipment that tested the substances did not operate properly.
Last, the prosecutor must prove that the drugs or paraphernalia you had were yours. Even if these items are found in your glove compartment, that does not always prove that they are yours. Perhaps a friend borrowed your car and put it there.
Drug Paraphernalia Arrest Tips
If the worst happens and you are arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia, all is not lost. Your drug possession lawyer at Mark Diaz & Associates will do their best to defend you. Also, remember these tips:
- If the police serve you with a search warrant, look at it carefully for a judge’s signature. Also, check the description of the investigation the police will conduct. Do not allow them to do anything other than what is on the search warrant.
- If you are put under arrest for possession or delivery of drug paraphernalia, use your right to remain silent. Nothing you say will help in this situation except to ask for your attorney.
- Do not resist arrest or argue with the police. Doing so will only make things worse.
- Once the police have you in custody, never give a statement to the police or answer their questions. Even if you say you are innocent, it can be used against you. Wait for your attorney to arrive before saying anything.
Consequences Of A Drug Paraphernalia Conviction
A conviction for possessing or delivering drug paraphernalia can do more than cost you money and time behind bars. A conviction means you have a permanent criminal record for a drug-related crime. This will make your life much more difficult for years, and once you are convicted, it can never be removed from your record. Potential collateral consequences of a drug paraphernalia conviction are:
Most employers do a background check before hiring you in Texas or anywhere in the US. Having a drug paraphernalia conviction on your record may keep you from getting many jobs. Many large employers will immediately drop you from consideration for having any arrest on your record, let alone a conviction.
If you have a job now, a drug conviction could cost you, too. Many employers will not want to employ someone with a criminal conviction. If you need to go to jail, you could lose your job while away.
Are you a truck driver or a real estate agent? A drug paraphernalia conviction could lead to a loss or suspension of your professional license. If you work in healthcare or the law, years of education could go down the drain when your license is revoked or suspended.
Are you in college or planning to go? Many educational institutions conduct background checks on students and may not want to offer you a place if you have a drug paraphernalia conviction.
Most landlords conduct background checks on renters. If you have a criminal conviction, you may not be allowed to rent a house or apartment, and getting a mortgage can be more complicated.
There are so many ways that a drug paraphernalia charge or conviction can turn your life upside down. With these things in mind, speaking to an experienced criminal defense attorney in Harris County is the best path forward after an arrest.
Contact Our Harris County Drug Possession Lawyers
If you have been charged with a drug paraphernalia or drug possession crime, it is vital to retain an experienced attorney today. The sooner you have an attorney representing you, the better your chance of a good case outcome. You can speak to our Harris County drug possession lawyers at Mark Diaz & Associates today by calling (409) 515-6170. We will review your charges in the free consultation and explain the options. Mr. Diaz has experience with the law, the courts, the judges, and the prosecutors in Harris County, and his advice will be invaluable to secure the best results for you.