How does a court determine what is drug paraphernalia?

The problem with determining what is considered drug paraphernalia is that many objects used to manipulate and cultivate controlled substances can also be used for legitimate reasons. If you find yourself caught up in a suspected paraphernalia case, you should know that South Carolina law provides many different ways that a court can evaluate whether an object is truly drug paraphernalia.

One of the factors a judge will consider is whether the object was found in relation to any controlled substance. A judge might find greater reason to rule that the object is paraphernalia if it was discovered close to a substance like heroin or marijuana. An object that is found with residue of a controlled substance inside it is also more likely to signal to a court that it was intended as drug paraphernalia.

Some objects that can be considered drug paraphernalia are also sold for legitimate use. If the object in question is sold to the public, a court will look at a number of variables. The owner or the person controlling the object should be a legitimate supplier of such items, like a licensed tobacco product dealer. The court will also look at instructions, descriptive materials and advertising that accompanies the object, as well as how the object is offered for sale.

Anyone who owns suspected paraphernalia can make the case to a court that the object was never intended for illegal substance use. While a South Carolina court will consider the statements of the object’s owner, it may also take into account the testimony of an expert who understands the use of the object. The fact that the object can be used legitimately will also be a factor, so it may help to explain the many different ways the object can be legally used.

Courts may also examine any direct or circumstantial evidence that a person who owned or controlled the object delivered it to somebody knowing that the recipient was going to use it for illegal purposes. Even if the object owner did not know, a court may determine that the owner should have reasonably known that the recipient intended illegal use.

Since cases involving drug paraphernalia can take many forms, do not consider this article as legal counsel. It is only intended as general information.

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