Defending Against Drug Paraphernalia Charges

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Drug Paraphernalia & Drug Ingredients

It’s not just drugs themselves that are illegal in Alabama. Our state’s criminal code also makes it illegal to possess drug paraphernalia, which is broadly defined as anything that can help a person produce, store, sell or use drugs. Alabamans are also prohibited from possessing anhydrous ammonia if they know or should know it will be used to make a controlled substance. And the state prohibits the possession or sale of “precursor chemicals” — which include many common household items — knowing that they will be used to unlawfully make a controlled substance. Similar restrictions exist under federal law.

If you’ve been arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia or drug ingredients, chances are that law enforcement isn’t done investigating or charging you. These types of arrests are often a way to “get” a person who law enforcement believes — but cannot prove — is guilty of other drug-related crimes. You may be interrogated at length or asked to submit to searches despite a lack of evidence that you’ve committed drug crimes.

Don’t agree to any voluntary searches or any interrogations until an experienced drug crime defense lawyer is by your side.

Alabama Paraphernalia Law

Under Alabama criminal law, it is illegal to possess or use drug paraphernalia — anything that’s used, intended for use or designed for use with drugs. That includes objects used in growing, manufacturing, processing, concealing or ingesting drugs.

Because the law is so broad, and because it covers a variety of drugs, this means many common household items can be mistakenly swept up in the law, including cooking equipment, gardening tools, small containers and pipes intended for smoking tobacco.

State law requires courts to decide whether something is paraphernalia by taking into account factors such as:

  • Statements by the owner
  • The existence and scope of non-narcotic uses of the object
  • Any residue of controlled substances on the object
  • Any prior convictions of the owner
  • Packaging and instructions
  • How the object is displayed or advertised
  • Expert testimony

On the first offense, possession of drug paraphernalia is a Class A misdemeanor carrying up to a year in prison. Any subsequent offense is a Class C felony punishable by one to ten years in prison. Delivering paraphernalia to a minor who is at least three years younger than you is a Class B felony carrying 2 to 20 years.

Marijuana Paraphernalia in Birmingham

When individuals in Birmingham and the rest of the state of Alabama are faced with possession of marijuana paraphernalia charges, the charges have the potential to result in serious consequences. Not to mention, marijuana paraphernalia that is found to contain any trace of marijuana residue can result in a possession of marijuana in addition to possession of marijuana paraphernalia charge.

Individuals who are charged with possession of marijuana paraphernalia charges in Birmingham frequently find that consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer can prove beneficial. It is also essential for individuals facing possession of marijuana paraphernalia charges in Birmingham to understand some essential information about the charges.

The Requirements For A Marijuana Paraphernalia Charge

It is critical that individuals understand what constitutes a marijuana paraphernalia charge. Alabama state law makes it against for any person to possess drug paraphernalia that can be used to achieve a variety of purposes. The statute regarding marijuana paraphernalia is written in such a broad way that many different types of devices can constitute paraphernalia.

Some of the most common examples of drug paraphernalia include baggies, bongs, bowls, jars, pipes, rolling papers, and scales.

In many cases, however, it might be unclear whether a device is intended for drug use. In these situations, surrounding facts can influence a court of law’s determination of whether the device is considered drug paraphernalia including any instructions about how the device is to be used, statements given by the owner of the device, whether there is any residue in the device, and whether there are any other additional uses for the device.

Penalties For Marijuana Paraphernalia

Individuals must remember that charges of drug paraphernalia are often grouped together with drug charges even in situations where an individual only possesses drug paraphernalia.

An individual who faces a first-time charge of marijuana paraphernalia faces a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $5,000.

Any subsequent marijuana paraphernalia offense is considered a Class C felony that is punishable by one to ten years in prison. As a result, individuals who face a marijuana paraphernalia charge must understand that these charges frequently include substantial prison sentences.

Defending A Marijuana Paraphernalia Charge In Birmingham

There are several different legal strategies that an individual can use to defend against a marijuana paraphernalia charge. Selecting an appropriate strategy and being able to fully argue this strategy can have a large impact upon how a case is decided.

Some of the most common strategies in defending a drug paraphernalia charge are a denial of guilt, partial admission of guilt with an explanation for what occurred, and a conditional admission of guilt.

Precursor Chemicals in Alabama

It is illegal in Alabama to possess anhydrous ammonia (the same kind of ammonia used in glass cleaners) and certain other chemicals or products that are considered ingredients or precursors to illegal drugs.

Generally, enforcement of these laws focuses on ingredients in methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth or speed, including:

  • Cold medicines containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine
  • Drain cleaners
  • Rat poison
  • Paint thinner
  • Acetone (sometimes found in nail polish remover)
  • Propane fuel

Possession of any amount of these and other precursor chemicals is illegal, but only if the possessor intends or knows the chemical will be used to manufacture a controlled substance. For that reason, law enforcement frequently focuses on people who are buying an unusually large amount of these chemicals.

Possession of a precursor chemical or anhydrous ammonia with intent to manufacture are Class B felonies carrying 2 to 20 years in prison. For retail establishments, selling precursor chemicals without following the restrictions and reporting requirements set down by law is also illegal.

Violations range from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class C felony, depending on their seriousness.

Drug Paraphernalia and Ingredients Defense

Drug paraphernalia and ingredients are not drugs. But all too often, law enforcement behaves as if they are. Even if you aren’t charged with a related drug crime, a conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia, drug ingredients or precursor chemicals can still lead to years in prison, steep fines and a lifelong, permanent felony criminal record.

If the charges are stacked on top of charges for drug possession, manufacture, sales or trafficking, you may lose your freedom for decades. With so much at stake, you need an experienced, aggressive criminal defender standing by your side.

At Alabama Criminal Lawyers, we represent clients throughout Alabama who are facing drug paraphernalia or ingredient possession charges, including pharmacists and retailers charged with illegal sales of precursor chemicals. After taking a new client, we will always comb through the prosecution’s case to look for mistakes, careless assumptions and violations of your civil rights that can get the charges dropped or substantially reduced.

When that’s not possible, we will negotiate with prosecutors to get clients alternative or reduced sentences or charges that are more appropriate for their situations. If the case goes to trial, we’ll prepare to vigorously defend you in court, using expert witnesses and other resources to force the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Because we never charge for an initial consultation, there’s never any risk in meeting to learn about your legal rights and your options.

Contact Alabama Criminal Lawyers

If you or someone you care about is accused of crimes related to drug paraphernalia, anhydrous ammonia or precursor chemicals, contact us at (205) 994-0616 for a free consultation.