Possession of Narcotics Paraphernalia in Michigan – Even a Pot Pipe?

My Criminal Defense Practice has me in Court on a daily basis in the Metro-Detroit area, and one of the more common, and often confusing charges I deal with is Possession of Narcotics Paraphernalia. Very often, my Client will ask if a simple “Pot Pipe,” clearly used for nothing stronger than Marijuana, can be considered “Narcotics Paraphernalia.”

And the answer is yes.

marijuana pipe.jpgAlthough the words “Narcotics Paraphernalia” often appear in many of these laws, other, similar laws use the term “Drug Paraphernalia.” Whatever the words used, these laws are all Local Ordinances enacted by a City, Township, or Village. There is no State Law regarding the Possession of Narcotics Paraphernalia.

Under these various Ordinances, the Offense of Possession of Narcotics Paraphernalia is a Misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum of 93 days in jail (don’t worry, jail sentences are extremely rare), and a fine of up to $500, plus Court Costs. At first glance, Possession of a Pot Pipe might seem less serious than actual Possession of Marijuana, but in fact, where a Marijuana charge can be completely kept off of a person’s Record, a Paraphernalia charge cannot. Consider this example:

Two people are arrested after a Traffic Stop (forget the details, because we can get sidetracked with all of that). When the Police search them, or pat them down, they find a small amount of Marijuana on the one person, and a Pot Pipe on the other. Accordingly, one is charged with Possession of Marijuana, and the other is charged with Possession of Narcotics Paraphernalia.

When they go to Court, the person with the Marijuana charge is told by his or her Lawyer that because they have no prior Drug Record, the Marijuana charge can be kept off of their Record using something known as a “7411,” and that they will not be sent to jail. The person charged with paraphernalia, however, is told by their Lawyer that although they will not go to jail, the charge will go upon their Record. Forever.

This is the key difference between these two charges. There is no possibility of keeping a Possession of Narcotics Paraphernalia charge off of a person’s Record.

In pretty much every Paraphernalia case I handle, if the charge is “solid,” meaning not likely to be dismissed because of some fault or weakness, and if the person I’m representing has no prior Drug Record, I try and have the charge “amended,” or changed, to Possession of Marijuana so that I can keep it off of their Record. In most cases, this can be done, but there are some Municipalities that do not have their own Marijuana Ordinance. In those cases, no such “switcheroo” between the charges can be done. Instead, a deal is usually worked out which will have the charge completely removed, or “come off” the person’s Record 1 year after it goes on.

For all of this, what’s considered a mere “Pot Pipe” can turn out to be a bowl of troubles for the person caught with it.