Drug Paraphernalia | Use and Possession | A Criminal Defense Attorney | Lawyer’s Perspective | Washington Drug Possession Laws.
From the prospective of our team of practicing lawyers who handle the criminal and administrative aspects of these kind of cases, paraphernalia charges are ripe for search and seizure | probable cause | dismissal motions. From a defense prospective, Washington State prosecuting attorneys not only have to prove you were caught using the paraphernalia but also that law enforcement gained possession of the illegal, drug, narcotic or controlled substance through lawful and constitutional means. This is where our law firm’s depth of experience and litigation mentality find favorable legal issues that benefit our clients. We have argued hundreds of motions by taking the time to critically analyzing the police reports, sit down and review our cases with our clients, reviewing the discovery with them, lay out the options, write motions and form a plan of attack. The key to good lawyering is to know what result you are looking for, take the time to develop a case, collect the facts and use this information to get the right result.
What is the definition of drug paraphernalia?
In Washington, there are various items that have been statutorily deemed to be drug paraphernalia as well as circumstances required for those items to be proven to be in fact, drug paraphernalia. Under Washington Law, the definitions can be found in the Revised Code of Washington. That said, the definition of paraphernalia is an almost infinite spectrum of items depending on the circumstances. In the course of our years of practicing criminal law we have seen the list expanded. This is a very dangerous statute to be charged under because of how many things it can cover.
Use versus possession.
Possession of drug paraphernalia by itself is not a crime, the crime requires an improper use. That said, there is an argument that law enforcement must see you using the paraphernalia to ingest the illegal controlled substances to charge you under this statute. We say arguably because the interpretation of this statute varies from county to county throughout Washington. See RCW 69.50.412(1); State v. Neeley, 113 Wn.App. 100, 107, 52 P.3d 539 (2002); State v. Lowrimore, 67 Wn.App. 949, 959, 841 P.2d 779 (1992). Obviously laws change, so consult with our office for an up to date analysis.
What is required for a conviction under this statute?
Case law interpreting Washington’s drug paraphernalia statute, does not appear to make it a strict liability crime, instead, the focus appears to be a literal one that requires possession and use See, e.g., State v. O’Meara, 143 Wn.App. 638, 642–43, 180 P.3d 196 (2008). Thus it can be argued that if you are not caught in the act of using the paraphernalia then they cannot get a conviction. We have experience in presenting this and other creative defenses and motions.
What is the penalty for violating this statute?
The penalty for an individual convicted of violating this statute is either a civil infraction, punishable by a pre-determined statutory fine, or a gross misdemeanor punishable up to 365 days in jail and/or a $5000 fine.
There is an enhancement possibility for a second or subsequent offense. Be aware that paraphernalia charges can have impact on Washington Department of Health, DOH licenses and other licenses and certifications. We are very familiar with the issues surrounding administrative actions. Set an appointment with our office if you are concerned.
Is there an affirmative defense available?
Yes, there is an available affirmative defense. The statute provides for one exception/affirmative defense stating that it is lawful for persons over age 18 to possess sterile hypodermic syringes and needles for the purpose of reducing blood borne diseases.
How do you defend a possession of paraphernalia charge?
The key to defending a paraphernalia charges lies in the circumstances in which the items are located. Arguably, law enforcement has to actually view you using the alleged paraphernalia in order to charge you with a crime under this statute. If the allegation is that it was found pursuant to a search warrant then all the issues surrounding a valid warrant apply. If law enforcement finds the paraphernalia via some other type of search then all of the search warrant exceptions can come into play and remember it is up to the State to prove the seizure is lawful. Defense attorneys and their firms must be willing to try cases and be vested in challenging the facts and circumstances surrounding these kinds of charges, especially when jobs, licenses and reputations can be on the line. Our firm has a reputation for knowing the law and staunchly defending our client’s rights and livelihood. We litigate with a goal in mind. Email or call 206-708-7852 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation. All lawyers are not the same.