Many people would be surprised to learn they risk getting accused of drug paraphernalia possession if law enforcement agents search their car or house. Florida law defines drug paraphernalia as any object that can be used to ingest, make, transport or package drugs. This is an extremely wide category, as many such objects are not specialized equipment that clearly point to drug involvement. The statute itself lists common household objects like scales, duct tape and plastic bags.
Paraphernalia possession and connection to drugs
Does this mean police officers can just come into your house, confiscate your food scale and charge you with possessing drug paraphernalia? Not quite. Context matters here, and police officers know they will need to prove a connection to drug use. On the other hand, it is easy for people living with others to get swept up due to the activities of a housemate or family member. College students living in dorms or sharing apartments can get accused when officers cannot easily tell who owns the objects.
One way of showing a connection to drugs is using chemical testing to prove the presence of drug residue on the object. Field tests and personal assessments by an officer can lack accuracy and end up with false positives. You may have to wait some time for conclusive chemical testing.
Another common scenario occurs when officers find common objects next to the drugs. For example, a box of plastic bags next to a bulk container of marijuana can indicate that the accused was going to put the marijuana into the bags.
Whose paraphernalia is it, anyway?
According to the law, the person who possesses the object is the person who controls it. This does not mean officers must catch the accused with the object in his or her hand in order to get the charges to stick. Exclusive possession applies when the object is on a particular person’s property and other people do not have the right to enter. If you are the only person living in the house, officers can assume you control the objects in the house. While ownership indicates possession, the reverse is not true. You can hold and use something even if you do not own it.
Florida penalties for paraphernalia possession can range up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. If these charges come along with other allegations, the potential penalties can rise to quite a substantial level. A strong attorney can develop the best approach for a possession case, whether that is challenging the allegations or advocating for alternative resolution. If you have concerns about potential charges, speak with a qualified lawyer as soon as possible to begin building your defense.