How To Defend Possession Of Drug Paraphernalia

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If you are arrested for possessing an object that can be used to inject or consume illegal drugs, then you will likely be charged under Health & Safety Code section 11364.

How Does the Prosecutor Prove This Charge?

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If you are charged with possessing drug paraphernalia used to unlawfully consume a controlled substance, the prosecutor must prove the following to establish that you are guilty under Health & Safety Code § 11364:

  •  You unlawfully possessed an object that can be used to unlawfully inject or consume a controlled substance;
  • You knew of the object’s presence;


  • You knew that the object could be used to unlawfully inject or consume a controlled substance.

What Is Drug Paraphernalia Under Section 11364?

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“Drug Paraphernalia” IS anything, such as a device, contraption, or instrument, used for injecting or smoking illegal drugs.

  • Example:  A crack pipe or syringes for heroin use would be illegal under this Section.

Drug Paraphernalia IS NOT absolutely anything relating to any illegal drug.

  • Example:    A scale or marijuana “bong” would not be covered under this Section, however may be a violation under a different section of the Health and Safety Code.
  • Example:   Hypodermic needles or syringes that have been containerized for safe disposal in a container that meets state and federal standards for disposal of sharps waste. These items are specifically protected under this Section.

What Is “Possession” Under Section 11364?

There are 2 kinds of possession under these laws:

  • Actual Possession.   You have actual and/or exclusive control over the substance, you actually have it in your hand or on your person.

Example:       You are arrested with an opium pipe in your pocket

  • Constructive Possession.   You do not have to actually hold or touch the substance, to possess it. It is enough if you have control over it/ [or] the right to control it, either personally or through another person.
  • Example:     You and a friend are arrested with opium pipes in the front passenger compartment of the car. 2 or more people may possess something at the same time, which will give rise to constructive possession.

What Is “Knowledge” Under Section 11364?

Knowledge.  You were aware of the substance’s presence, AND that it was a controlled substance.

  • Example:     You are arrested with an opium pipe that you knew was in your purse, that you mistakenly thought was a crack pipe. Both are illegal controlled substances under H&S § 11364, the mere fact that you knew that the substance was in your possession, and you knew that it was a controlled substance is enough.


judge penalty

Misdemeanor Offense

  • Up to 6 months in jail
  • 0-3 years summary probation
  • Up to $1000 in fines and fees

Legal Defenses

Depending on the circumstances, an experienced and diligent attorney, like the attorneys of the Aizman Law Firm, will evaluate your case and assess the most effective legal defenses to assist in negotiating a possible charge reduction, or if applicable, dismissal of the charges. Below are possible legal defenses to a charge under Health & Safety Code §11364:

The Drug Paraphernalia was Authorized for Personal Use.

  • If paraphernalia is found in your possession, and it was authorized for your own personal use, then an attorney can argue to the prosecutor that, the fact that the item was authorized means the possession of it IS NOT illegal.

Example:   Jane is arrested for possessing needles or syringes for her personal use. Jane obtained the needles or syringes from an authorized source, Dr. Diabetic, for her insulin injections. At the time of her arrest, Jane possessed 5 needles in a sealed case.  Jane would be found NOT GUILTY under Section 11364, because Jane did not unlawfully possess her hypodermic needles or syringes. Under Section 11364, it specifically provides protection if you possess the items for personal use, obtain it from an authorized source AND possessed no more than 10 needles or syringes.

You are a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, manufacturer or retailer of these items.

  • If paraphernalia is found in your possession, and you are authorized to possess the item under your profession, as perhaps, a nurse, then an attorney, may be able to argue to the prosecutor that your possession of the item was not illegal.

You did not Possess the Drug Paraphernalia.

  • Under Health & Safety Code § 11364, Possession is Required. Therefore, if you did not actually possess, or even constructively possess the paraphernalia, then you have not committed a violation under Section 11364.

You did NOT KNOW that the Drug Paraphernalia was present.

  • Under Health & Safety Code § 11364, you are required to have knowledge of TWO things in order to be convicted. First, that you KNEW of the presence of the drug paraphernalia. Second, that you KNEW of the item’s nature or character as drug paraphernalia. Therefore, knowledge is a critical part of these charges.

You were a victim of ENTRAPMENT by law enforcement officials.

  • Under Health & Safety Code § 11364: The act of law enforcement officers or government agents inducing or encouraging a person to commit a crime when the potential criminal expresses a desire not to go ahead. Entrapment is an effective legal defense if the commission or encouragement of the criminal act originated with the police or government agents, instead of with the “criminal.”

There is INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE against you.

  • Under Health & Safety Code § 11364: A criminal defense attorney can show the prosecutor that they do not have enough evidence to convict you under Section 11364. This can be done with mitigating evidence or proof that not all elements of the crime were met by showing that the evidence submitted is either insufficient or insubstantial.


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Hiring An Attorney

If you have been arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia contact the Aizman Law Firm for a free consultation at 818-351-9555.

Diana Aizman
Founding Attorney
(818) 351-9555
Blithe Leece

Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555