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How is an object determined as drug paraphernalia?

  • Birdsall Obear

Some drugs can be consumed using various odd objects. On occasion, this may beg the question, what exactly are the conditions to deem an object, such as a spoon or a soda can, drug paraphernalia? Here are a few considerations and exceptions the court will make.

Conditions for drug paraphernalia

By Wisconsin law, there are a number of considerations set fourth for the court to use to determine whether an object could reasonably be called drug paraphernalia. Here are a few of those considerations:

  • How the user or owner has talked about the object
  • The proximity of the object to a controlled substance
  • Whether there is residue of a controlled substance on the object
  • Instructions on how to use the object that were provided with it
  • Materials accompanying the object that explain its use, such as tobacco in a pipe
  • Expert testifying its use

Examples of drug paraphernalia

Circumstances permitting, here are a few examples of items that may commonly be considered drug paraphernalia:

  • Scales and balances designed for weighing controlled substances
  • Separation gins and sifters designed for refining marijuana
  • Capsules, balloons, envelops and other containers used for packaging small quantities of controlled substances
  • Water pipes
  • Roach clips
  • Chilams
  • Bongs

Tobacco pipe exception

In the case of the State v. Martinez, a tobacco pipe is explicitly excluded from the definition of drug paraphernalia, regardless of whether residue of a controlled substance in the pipe is present.

Other exceptions may include:

  • Items that are primarily intended for tobacco use, such as pipes and papers
  • Hypodermic syringes and needles

Drug paraphernalia penalties

Many people believe that paraphernalia penalties are minor. However, you could even face jail time for this charge. In Wisconsin, those who are 18 years or older and found in possession of drug paraphernalia can be fined up to $500 or imprisoned for up to 30 days or both.

Those under the age of 17 may have driving privileges suspended for at least 6 months or up to 5 years along with a community service order and $50 fine.

However, if you are found in possession of drug paraphernalia with the intent to manufacture, process or store methamphetamine or a controlled substance, you can face Class H felony charges, punishable by fines of up to $10,000 and/or up to six years in prison.

Get help with drug charges

If you are facing drug charges -- even just for drug paraphernalia -- gain the legal counsel of an attorney for advice. An attorney can help you devise several strategies to avoid unreasonable damages to your record for a simple mistake.

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