As you likely know, the concept of “drug paraphernalia” can constitute any tools, scales, or other items associated with drug possession and/or drug trafficking. The penalties for a drug paraphernalia charge are typically much less severe than the substantive drug possession or drug trafficking charges. So, why even charge them?
From a strictly “textbook” perspective, the answer to that question is that all aspects of a criminal incident should be appropriately charged, including any incidental charges that apply, such as possession of drug paraphernalia. Yet, from a real-world perspective, the drug paraphernalia charge gives prosecutors flexibility.
In short, virtually all – maybe somewhere in the ballpark of 95 to 99% of criminal cases – are resolved through a plea agreement rather than a trial. Accordingly, when fashioning an appropriate plea offer, prosecutors want to have the most leeway possible to make a plea offer that comports with what he or she thinks is the appropriate punishment.
Charges like the a drug paraphernalia charge provide that kind of flexibility. If, for example, a prosecutor wants to go easy on a person, he or she may offer a plea to a drug paraphernalia charge and agree to dismiss the other, more substantive, drug charges. By contrast, if a prosecutor is making a plea offer to someone with a significant criminal history, then offering to dismiss the drug paraphernalia charge (among other lesser charges) is a way to persuade the defendant that he is getting something for his plea.
In sum, drug paraphernalia charges are really more important as a bargaining chip in the plea agreement discussion than a necessary charge in any drug case. Given that, if you are facing drug charges, including drug paraphernalia charges, be sure to see if you and your drug crimes attorney can use a plea to the lesser charge to your advantage.