You’re stopped by the police for some reason while you’re out on the road and the officer notices that you have a drug pipe sitting in the cupholder of your car. You don’t actually have any marijuana on you, so you aren’t worried — until you suddenly find yourself in handcuffs. What happened?
You can face drug charges just for having drug paraphernalia on your person, not drugs. The term “paraphernalia” covers equipment related to the manufacturer, transportation, sale or use of illegal drugs.
How serious an offense is it to have drug paraphernalia?
If caught with drug paraphernalia, you could face extremely severe penalties. Several factors affect the severity of the charges you may face:
- The kind of paraphernalia: Items used for taking a drug would typically be considered less severe than those used in the production or distribution of the same drug. For example, having a bong might suggest you inhale marijuana. Having a set of high wattage lamps in your attic and thousands of resealable plastic bags might indicate that you are growing and selling drugs.
- How much of the drug is eventually detected: The larger the quantity, the more serious the offense and the potential consequences if convicted. For each drug, there is a limit above which authorities consider it is for distribution rather than personal use. Keep in mind, any paraphernalia that appears used will likely be tested for drug residue — and even the residue of certain drugs (like a few particles of cocaine) is enough for you to face additional charges.
- The kind of drug that is detected: Georgia laws classify drugs on a scale from one to six. Drugs categorized as Schedule I are considered a more serious offense than those classed as Schedule VI. The categories depend on how high the potential for dependence or abuse is and the drug’s medical value. Possession of meth or crack cocaine, for example, is more serious than marijuana.
- Your previous history of charges: A first offense would typically be treated less severely than the latest in a series of events. It will also depend upon what any previous charges were for.
Prosecutors will push hard to build up a strong case against you. They may combine evidence of drug paraphernalia with a past criminal record or small quantities of a drug the police found to increase the charges. It is vital you have a strong defense when accused of any drug charges.