Drug Paraphernalia: Texas Laws and Regulations for Drug Accessories
- September 21, 2016
- The Law Office of Greg Tsioros
- Comments Off on Drug Paraphernalia: Texas Laws and Regulations for Drug Accessories
Texas Drug Paraphernalia Laws
Texas is well-known for having tough drug laws. Getting caught with even a small amount of illegal narcotics can land you behind bars for a long time. However, getting caught carrying illicit substances is not the only way to end up with a drug charge in Texas.
It’s also illegal to be in possession of drug paraphernalia. While the most serious penalties are reserved for people who are caught with actual drugs, carrying or selling drug accessories can get you into plenty of trouble. This article will explain some of the facts about drug paraphernalia possession in Texas.
What Is Drug Paraphernalia?
According to Chapter 481 of the Texas Controlled Substances Act, a huge variety of items may be considered drug paraphernalia. To put it simply, any item which is used to consume, grow, manufacture or distribute illegal drugs may be considered paraphernalia. Obviously, this covers a lot of different objects but some of the most common items classified as paraphernalia are things which are used to introduce drugs into the human body. This can include:
- Glass, metal or wooden smoking pipes
- Water pipes or bongs
- Vaporizers or combustion devices
- Herb grinders
- Spoons or beakers used for preparing injectable drugs
- Tubes used for insufflating (snorting) powdered drugs
- Rolling papers
In many cases, paraphernalia charges can be filed if a law enforcement officer suspects that a person has been consuming or selling drugs but has no actual drugs in their possession. For this reason, paraphernalia can be virtually anything that is used to facilitate using or selling drugs.
This means that plastic bags, planting pots and lab equipment can all be considered illegal drug paraphernalia in certain circumstances. Although a person can be charged for possessing or selling these items even if they have no drugs on their person, paraphernalia charges can still be applied if drugs are found as well.
In some cases, police officers or judges may offer first-time drug offenders a deal if they are caught with drugs. For example, a person caught with a bag of marijuana is technically in possession of both an illegal drug and drug paraphernalia. In such a case, the bag that contains the marijuana can legally be considered paraphernalia. However, a police officer may decide to confiscate the drugs and issue the person a citation for paraphernalia possession, a less serious charge. Similarly, a judge may choose to offer a defendant the chance to plead down to a paraphernalia charge instead of a possession charge.
In the reverse case, a repeat offender may be forced to deal with both a drug possession charge and a paraphernalia charge if a judge decides to “throw the book” at them.
The criminal penalties for the possession of drug paraphernalia can vary widely based on the facts of a particular case. In most cases, a first-time offender who is caught with drug paraphernalia will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. This is punishable by:
- A $500 fine
- Possible community service
Repeat offenders will not get off so easily. A second or third offense for possession of drug paraphernalia can automatically be upgraded to a higher penalty category that includes the possibility of jail time.
Selling drug paraphernalia also leads to tougher charges. A first-time offense for selling illegal drug paraphernalia is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by:
- Up to one year in county jail
- Up to a $4000 fine
A subsequent offense for selling illegal paraphernalia can lead to a felony charge, which is punishable by:
- 90 days or up to one year in state jail or state prison
- A fine of up to $4000
The penalties can also be increased for someone who is caught selling paraphernalia to minors under the age of 18. A first-time offense for this charge is a state jail felony, punishable by:
- 180 days or up to two years in state prison
- A fine of up to $10,000
Head Shops and Convenience Stores
In some cases, prosecuting paraphernalia charges can fall into a legal gray area. This is because many items that can be used to consume, carry or sell drugs have legitimate uses as well.
For example, a spoon and a lighter seem harmless enough but, in certain circumstances, they can be used to prepare drugs for injection. Charges in these cases are often up to the discretion of a police officer or a judge.
However, this gray area has led to an interesting situation. In cities all over Texas, stores known as “head shops” or “smoke shops” sell things like rolling papers, vaporizers and water pipes legally.
These shops exist directly inside this legal gray area. This is because a water pipe may be used for smoking tobacco and rolling papers are often used for preparing handmade cigarettes. In fact, many of these stores will post signs stating their products are to be used for consuming legal substances only.
Also, many convenience stores sell rolling papers behind the counter and some may even sell items called “water pipes” or “mini vases” that can quite easily be used to smoke illegal drugs.
It’s simply not practical for law enforcement officers to continually monitor and raid these shops to catch offenders. After all, an experienced lawyer could easily argue that a client was only in possession of such an item in order to smoke tobacco or other legal herbs.
However, this gray area does not mean that police officers are powerless to make arrests. For example, if a person walks into a “head shop” and legally purchases a glass water pipe, they may not be in any danger of arrest. But if they are pulled over for speeding on the way home and a police officer sees the pipe lying in the passenger seat, the officer may freely decide to issue the driver a drug paraphernalia citation.