Possession of an illegal drug is often a fairly straight-forward crime. The substance in question is either the methamphetamine, cocaine or other drug it is alleged to be or it is not. It can be chemically tested to provide a definitive answer to the question. Paraphernalia, on the other hand, resides in muddier waters.
What is drug paraphernalia?
Florida’s legal definition of drug paraphernalia is long and complex. In summary, paraphernalia is anything that is used or intended to be used for nearly any purpose related to an illegal controlled substance. The purpose can include everything from growing or manufacturing the substance to distributing or using it. A bowl and an envelope are everyday items possessed by nearly everyone, but if law enforcement believes they are possessed for a purpose related to controlled substances, suddenly they are illegal paraphernalia.
There is no requirement that drugs be possessed for an item to be considered paraphernalia – it is enough to have paraphernalia by itself. Typically, when law enforcement charges someone with possessing it, they do so as a misdemeanor. But this is not always the case, as there are circumstances which can make it a felony.
Circumstances are key when it comes to paraphernalia charges, since it is not always obvious when an item is possessed for an illegal purpose. Indeed, Florida law recognizes this fact by listing numerous factors which must be considered to determine whether an item is paraphernalia. So, when a police officer makes an arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia, it’s important to understand that it’s nothing more than their opinion at that moment. They may be considering circumstances which ultimately do not support the conclusion, or aren’t aware of other circumstances which contradict the conclusion.