It is crime to be found with drugs on your person or in your property, but it is also a crime to be found with drug paraphernalia. An empty bong may seem harmless when there is no charge for possession of the drug for which the device is commonly used, but if found in your custody, you find yourself facing a criminal charge. In New Jersey, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia is a disorderly persons offense under N.J.S.A. 2C:36-2. There are no plea bargains for this charge—that means you must either fight against the charge, apply for a conditional discharge, or plead guilty.
Fighting against the charge means that you would raise a defense. Applying for a conditional discharge means that, if the application is accepted, you may have to attend a drug treatment program or some other program and upon successful completion, the charge would be discharged. Pleading guilty means instead of going to trial, you plead guilty to the charge and then face sentencing.
Paraphernalia can include a number of objects: opium pipes, water pipes, needles, spoons, and bongs. They can also include scales and plastic bags in terms of manufacturing, growing, weighing, or packaging of illegal drugs. In these cases, a prosecutor can show that these items were actually used for drug use or that it was intended for such use. In these cases, the court takes into consideration the circumstances of the entire case, which include the location of the paraphernalia (if it was located near illegal drugs for instance) or whether there is any drug residue on the item. The circumstances are generally unique to each individual charge and it is not recommended that you compare your situation to others.
If you are convicted for this possession, you are looking at a fine of up to $1,000 plus the assessment fees to Drug Enforcement, laboratory analysis, Victims of Crime Compensation Board, and to the Safe Neighborhood Services Fund, which generally totals out around $675. There is also a potential of jail time not exceeding six months even if it is your first offense. In addition, there is a mandatory suspension of your license that may range from six months to two years. These penalties seem pretty hefty for a non-violent offense of possession of a simple item, but New Jersey prides itself of strict drug laws.
Having to face a drug paraphernalia charge can be very confusing and difficult, especially when you have an otherwise clean record. If you have been charged with this offense, you should seek an experienced attorney to assist you during this very trying time. Defense attorney David C. Barry has the expertise in criminal defenses and is here to help you fight the charges. As a well-practiced attorney in these issues, he has the comprehensive knowledge of the possible defenses to give you the best possible outcome for your individual case. There are lots of rules and laws that may come into play, leaving the court no other option but to dismiss the charge, but unless you speak to an attorney, those possibilities do not exist for you. Call today at (732) 238-8686.