Drug Paraphernalia 101: You May Be Guilty and Not Even Know It

The term drug paraphernalia covers a huge range of products. Basically, if an item can help a person to take, make or hide a drug, it can be considered drug paraphernalia. The official definition under federal law sets out the ground rule that the item must be “primarily intended or designed” for using, manufacturing, or hiding illegal drugs, but the list of items is quite large. It includes the following, and more:

  • Pipes of nearly any material, including wood, glass, and metal
  • Water bongs
  • Roach clips
  • Rolling papers
  • Small spoons
  • Kits for freebasing cocaine
  • Needles used for injecting drugs


While these may seem like very obvious items that would be intended for helping a drug user to take his or her illegal drug, many of these items are sold under different descriptions. Many times, other factors must be considered by law enforcement when deciding if an item is meant for legal or illegal uses. To law enforcement, it seems that many of the items meant for aiding in drug use are aimed at minors. This intent to make drug use seem more glamorous and fun is seen as a adding to the seriousness of the crime. It is also a challenge to prevent the sale of the items when they are sold in tobacco shops, convenience stores, and other common businesses.

What Factors Determine If an Item Is Drug Paraphernalia?

Law enforcement can have great difficulty at times proving that an item is meant directly for taking, hiding, or manufacturing illegal drugs. The following list of factors helps them to determine if an item is legal or not:

  • Spoken or written instructions for use
  • Any material included that shows or tells how to use an item
  • Ads that show how to use the item(s)
  • How the item is sold, such as its placement in a store
  • If the owner or person with the item has a legal reason to possess it
  • Sales levels of the item for a business
  • If there are legal uses for the item
  • Testimony from expert witnesses.

In short, even though an item might be sold with the idea that it could be used for smoking a legal substance like tobacco, it could still be proven to be drug paraphernalia.

What Penalties Could Be Faced in Texas?

Under federal law it is illegal to sell or offer to sell, make, import, export, and transport by mail any drug paraphernalia. Someone convicted of the crime could face up to three years in prison, plus fines.

Texas law states give a number of different penalties for different classes of crimes.  Possession of paraphernalia is the least serious of these and is a class C misdemeanor.  The penalty for this is a fine of up to $500. However, penalties continue to grow steadily depending upon the seriousness of the offence.  For example, selling or intending to sell or deliver paraphernalia is a class A misdemeanor in Texas.  Penalties for this could be up to:

  • One year in prison
  • $4,000 in fines

In addition, if this is a repeat offense the crime becomes a felony with a 90 day minimum sentence. Selling to minors is also a felony, with the following punishment:

  • 180 day minimum jail time
  • Up to two years in jail
  • Fines up to $10,000.

How Serious Are These Offenses?

A charge or arrest involving drug paraphernalia is not something to be taken lightly. Depending upon the offense, someone charged with sale, possession or transport of paraphernalia could be facing felony charges. Considering that many times drug paraphernalia charges go along with other charges for possession, use or sale of controlled substances, these are serious offenses that could add considerable time in jail and fines on top of other penalties.

It is highly recommended that the best legal advice possible be found when facing charges for these offenses. Because drug paraphernalia has such a wide definition, many materials could fall into a grey area under the law. Having a good lawyer on one’s side could mean the difference between a lengthy stay in jail and a felony record or being proven innocent.

If you have been arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia, the best thing you could do is speak with a criminal attorney. Schedule your free legal concentration by calling 713-862-8880.


Photo | Pipes | by istolethetv | Used under Creative Commons image attribution license 2.0