Consequences of being caught with drug paraphernalia in California


The term Paraphernalia is commonly referred to as a collection of equipment, apparatus, or furnishing used for a specific activity. For instance, an eager sports fan may cover the walls of his room with football, basketball or cricket paraphernalia.

Drug paraphernalia refers to any equipment, apparatus, accessory, product or material that is modified to make, use, or cover drugs, usually for recreational purposes. Drugs such as cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine, commonly known as meth, are linked to a number of paraphernalia.

There are two categories of paraphernalia:

  • User-specific products
  • Dealer-specific products

User-specific paraphernalia include items such as glass pipes, crack cocaine pipes, smoking masks, bongs, syringes, hypodermic needles, spoons, tourniquets, and roach clips to grasp the burning end of a marijuana joint. Dealer-specific paraphernalia are used by drug sellers or transporters to prepare drugs for selling. Such items include digital scales, vials, and small zipper storage bags that can be used to sell crack, heroin, or marijuana.

According to California Health & Safety Code 11364 HS, to possess drug paraphernalia is illegal. Those who are found in possession of drugs as well as paraphernalia are mostly accused. The possession of both makes it easier for prosecutors to prove that the equipment was used to consume the drugs.

The health and safety code, 11364 HS, could be applied to a number of different devices. The most common paraphernalia include pipes, syringes or hypodermic needles, and cocaine spoons. Depending upon the circumstances of the individual, even common household items can result in a charge with HS 11364 violation. But one major exception to California’s law against drug paraphernalia possession is that until 2021, it is legal to possess hypodermic needles or syringes if:

  1. They are solely meant for personal use, and
  2. They have been acquired from a doctor, pharmacist or any other source authorized by law to provide sterile syringes and needles without a prescription

Individuals who get accused of possessing drug paraphernalia have a transgression on their criminal record. A drug conviction on an individual’s record can lead to difficulties when:

  • Finding a job with a conviction on their record
  • Taking an apartment on rent
  • Holding a professional license
  • Getting approved for an immigration visa or green card if the accused is not a U.S. citizen

The defendants go through a maximum penalty of six months in lockup with a fine of $1,000. Some of the accused individuals can also be given an opportunity to take a drug diversion program. The judges dismiss the charges if the individual successfully completes the diversion program and avoids probation violation. But if the individual fails to complete the diversion program, he/she may have to serve time in jail for their offense. The court can also place the accused on probation with time in jail or probation with no time in jail and community work.

People who hold professional licenses, such as lawyers, teachers, and contractors, face additional consequences of a 11364 HS conviction. The accusation of drug paraphernalia can lead to suspension of their professional license.

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