While most Florida residents are probably aware that possessing or distributing controlled substances such as cocaine and heroin are illegal, they may not be aware that it is illegal to own or possess items related to drugs. This means someone can be prosecuted for owning and possessing related items even if they do not possess actual drugs.
Drug paraphernalia is any equipment that can be used to hide, create or consume illicit drugs. As per federal law, it is illegal to offer to sell or sell drug paraphernalia, import or export it, or mail or transport it through interstate commerce. Federal law provides specific examples of paraphernalia, such as miniature spoons, bongs, roach clips and pipes made of glass, plastic, stone or ceramic. While federal law may not be violated by simply possessing these items, state law may be. Additionally, law enforcement officials routinely check these items for drug residue and, if any is found, related federal charges may follow.
Identifying drug paraphernalia can be challenging, as these items are often marketed for legitimate purposes. For example, pipes and bongs can be used with tobacco products, not only for usage with illegal drugs. Therefore, recognizing it as illegal can often involve assessing the manner in which they were displayed for sale, instructions for usage and the type of business selling the items. Before prosecuting someone on drug charges, it is important for enforcement officials to differentiate between a lawful object and illegal drug paraphernalia. States that have legalized marijuana for recreational use may have removed items from their prohibited list, but it's crucial to remember that federal law may still consider them unlawful.
While drug paraphernalia charges may carry lesser penalties than drug charges themselves, it still has the potential to alter the course of someone's life. Drug crime conviction charges affect employment, education and even limit the locations in which one can reside. Defending oneself against these charges can be highly beneficial and an experienced attorney may be able to provide guidance on how to go about doing so.