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What are drug paraphernalia charges?

A pipe or a roach clip can seem innocuous on their own, but when prosecutors put them together with the circumstances in which they were found and the instructions accompanying the items, the owner may face serious drug paraphernalia charges.

Possession of drug paraphernalia often accompanies other drug charges, and conviction on drug paraphernalia charges can result in jail time even if the defendant is not convicted of the additional charges.

These charges can fall under both Pennsylvania and federal laws. Under federal law, drug paraphernalia refers to any type of equipment that can be used to hide, produce or consume illegal drugs. State laws also prohibit some items, such as scales and syringes for injecting controlled substances.

State and federal laws outline other factors that law enforcement officials must look at to determine whether something is drug paraphernalia. Essentially, this means the police and prosecutors look at the context in which the items were found. For example, some items such as scales or small plastic bags may have perfectly legal uses, but when found alongside a stash of illegal drugs, they may be considered evidence of drug trafficking. A water pipe may carry a warning label that says it is for tobacco products only, but when it is found alongside illegal cannabis, it may be considered drug paraphernalia.

Even in states where cannabis has been legalized, some of these drug paraphernalia laws may remain on the books, and can find their way into trials. Since federal law continues to prohibit cannabis, these charges may also come up for people facing federal charges.

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