Contrary to what many people think, getting caught with drug paraphernalia will not land you in jail in most situations. Yes, it is against the law to have cocaine spoons, bongs, chamber pipes, and other similar items.  However, getting caught with these items alone will hit you in the wallet but not necessarily land you in the slammer.

​Possessing drug paraphernalia is punishable by a civil citation of up to $500. In many circumstances, the more important result of being found with drug paraphernalia is that it gives police officers probable cause to search your person, vehicle, or home. If there are drugs in or near the paraphernalia, you can be charged with drug possession—an entirely separate criminal charge.

But what exactly is “paraphernalia?”

In short, paraphernalia is any object that is used to do or make drugs. South Carolina drug laws define paraphernalia as:

“Any instrument, device, article, or contrivance used, designed for use, or intended for use in ingesting, smoking, administering, manufacturing, or preparing a controlled substance and does not include cigarette papers and tobacco pipes.”

The law includes a long list of examples:

(a) metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic, or ceramic marijuana or hashish pipes with or without screens, permanent screens, hashish head, or punctured metal bowls;
(b) water pipes designed for use or intended for use with marijuana, hashish, hashish oil, or cocaine;
(c) carburetion tubes and devices;
(d) smoking and carburetion masks;
(e) roach clips;
(f) separation gins designed for use or intended for use in cleaning marijuana;
(g) cocaine spoons and vials;
(h) chamber pipes;
(i) carburetor pipes;
(j) electric pipes;
(k) air-driven pipes;
(l) chilams;
(m) bongs;
(n) ice pipes or chillers.

While this may seem like a comprehensive list, it’s not. It is important to note that the list above is not a complete list of what is considered paraphernalia in South Carolina. If an object is clearly used for making or taking drugs, it counts as paraphernalia. Even homemade objects crafted with the intent to do drugs can be deemed paraphernalia.

Common Questions About Drug Paraphernalia

If you have been cited for drug paraphernalia, you probably have a few questions about what has happened to you and what is to come. Even though you do not face any jail time, a fine is nothing to take lightly. Here are the answers to some questions our clients ask us frequently.

What is the paraphernalia law in South Carolina?

The South Carolina law concerning paraphernalia can be found in Section 44-53-391 of the Code of Laws. Here, the law states it is illegal to advertise, deliver, sell, manufacture, possess, or possess with the intent to sell or distribute paraphernalia.

Is possession of paraphernalia a drug charge in South Carolina?

No, a paraphernalia charge is not a drug charge. A paraphernalia charge is a ticket. However, it is very common for paraphernalia charges to accompany possession charges, and possession IS a drug charge. Still, an expunged record of the charge can be stigmatic due to the logical connection to drugs.

What is the penalty for being convicted of a paraphernalia charge?

A conviction for drug paraphernalia carries a civil fine of not more than $500. Corporations convicted of paraphernalia charges are subject to a civil fine up to $50,000.

Is a paraphernalia charge a felony or misdemeanor?

Neither. It is a civil citation, which is less serious than a misdemeanor.

What is the jail sentence if I am convicted of possessing paraphernalia?

There is not a jail sentence for being convicted of possessing paraphernalia in South Carolina.

If you are also found with drugs, that is a different charge. The jail sentence for drug convictions depends on the drug and on how many prior convictions you have. Harder drugs carry tougher penalties, and more convictions usually mean longer jail sentences and heftier fines.

Is homemade paraphernalia illegal in South Carolina?

If the homemade paraphernalia is used to do or make drugs, it will most likely meet the paraphernalia definition and be illegal in South Carolina. Just because you made it yourself does not necessarily mean you can pass it off as something it is not. You could say your homemade pipe is for smoking tobacco, but if there is marijuana residue inside or a bag of weed next to it, the police can make the paraphernalia charge stick.

Are rolling papers paraphernalia?

Cigarette papers are not paraphernalia in South Carolina. Tobacco pipes are also excluded from the definition of paraphernalia. The intended use for these items is to smoke tobacco which is not an illegal drug.

Do I need an attorney for a paraphernalia charge since it’s only a citation?

It can be very beneficial to have an attorney when facing a paraphernalia charge. Just like other charges and citations, paraphernalia defenses may apply and charges can be dropped in some cases.

Getting help with your paraphernalia charge

If the police handed you a citation for paraphernalia possession, do not just pay the fine. You may be able to secure dismissal of the charge or put another way, beat the charge, and the best way to discover if you can beat your charge is by getting the assistance of experienced drug attorneys like those at Kulp & Elliott.

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