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What Counts As Drug Paraphernalia In New York?


The definition of drug paraphernalia in New York is often incredibly vague, and police may use this vague definition to justify unconstitutional searches and seizures. In some cases, everyday objects such as straws, digital scales, and plastic bags have been classified as drug paraphernalia under questionable circumstances. Defendants in New York may want to familiarize themselves with the specific definition of drug paraphernalia.

Man Faces Two Felonies After Dropping a Plastic Straw 

Although it might seem hard to believe, the simple act of dropping a plastic straw can lead to numerous felony charges for defendants. On December 8th of 2023, it was reported that a man on a bicycle had been seen near a pain clinic – and this was apparently enough to raise the suspicions of local police. Officers say that the suspect “dropped a blue straw” before pedaling away. The bike chain subsequently broke, causing him to fall to the ground.

Police then moved in and searched the suspect, discovering more plastic straws, drug paraphernalia, heroin, and unidentified pills. He was then arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance, obstructing an officer, and possession of drug paraphernalia. One might argue that simply dropping a plastic straw was not enough to warrant a full-scale police pursuit – potentially making the entire arrest unconstitutional. The justification for this pursuit supposedly revolves around the straw’s definition as “drug paraphernalia.”

How Does New York Define Drug Paraphernalia? 

Penal Law § 220.50(3) states that drug paraphernalia is anything that can be used to:

  • Measure controlled substances
  • Weigh controlled substances
  • Package a controlled substance
  • Dispense a controlled substance
  • Manufacture a controlled substance

The Department of Justice adds that drug paraphernalia may involve:

  • The use of controlled substances
  • The concealment of controlled substances
  • The dilution of controlled substances
  • The adulteration of controlled substances
  • The consumption of controlled substances

It should be clear that under these vague definitions, almost any item imaginable may be defined as drug paraphernalia. Technically speaking, a jacket could be defined as “drug paraphernalia” because it has pockets that can conceal drugs. As we have seen, everyday items like plastic straws can spark police pursuits that may cause injuries or deaths.

When a defendant faces issues involving drug paraphernalia, distinguishing between personal use and distribution may be especially important. Scales and other items can imply an intent to sell drugs, but this isn’t always the case. Drug users may use scales to measure out safe doses to avoid overdoses – and they may have no history of selling drugs.

Find a Qualified, Experienced Defense Attorney in New York 

If you’ve been searching for a qualified, experienced New York criminal defense lawyer, look no further than Philip J. Murphy, Attorney at Law. Over the years, we have helped numerous defendants strive for positive results – including those facing drug offenses. We know that the possession of everyday items can easily lead to unconstitutional searches in New York. With our help, you can fight for your rights effectively and mitigate legal consequences. Book a consultation today to get started.





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Phillip J. Murphy,
Attorney At Law
Free Consultations Calls Answered and returned 24/7 Phone: (845) 639-6600 Fax: (845) 639-6620

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New City, New York 10956

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Phillip J. Murphy, Attorney At Law is located in New City, New York and serves clients in and around New York, New Jersey & Connecticut. Contact our experienced criminal defense law firm.
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