The Penalties for Possessing Drug Paraphernalia in NJ

Possession of some drugs is more dangerous than other drugs, leading to different criminal penalties for different drugs.  However, when it comes to possession of drug paraphernalia, there is one penalty for nearly any type of paraphernalia you might have.

Under NJ law, it is illegal to use (or have with the intent to use) any drug paraphernalia.  This offense is nonetheless a low-level offense, qualifying as a “disorderly persons offense” – essentially a misdemeanor.  It can nonetheless lead to up to 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000 on top of any possession charges for the drugs associated with the paraphernalia.  However, given NJ’s legalization of marijuana, these rules have some caveats you should know.

For a free review of your potential drug paraphernalia charges, call the NJ drug crime defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.

What Drug Paraphernalia is Illegal in NJ?

Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:36-2, it is illegal to have or use drug paraphernalia.  What exactly qualifies as “paraphernalia” is listed under a separate definitions section, N.J.S.A. § 2C:36-1.  You can read through the list of all things that qualify as paraphernalia, but it is important to note that the list specifically says it is “not limited to” the items listed.  This means that anything else used to prepare or ingest drugs could qualify as paraphernalia as well.

Defining Paraphernalia by Its Purpose

The purpose of the alleged paraphernalia is incredibly important in defining whether or not the item is paraphernalia.  For an item to be paraphernalia, it needs to be used in the process of making, growing, preparing, packaging, or using drugs.  The specific words of the statute include a lot more verbs like this and also include language to expand the definition beyond the words specifically listed.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what specific use the items had; if they were used with drugs, they likely qualify as “paraphernalia” under such a broad definition.  Even so, our NJ drug crime defense lawyers can look at the facts and what items were allegedly considered paraphernalia in your case and try to challenge the accusations based on the definition listed here.

Subsection (b) of the above statute says that it is up to a judge or jury to determine what the use of the item was, and they can take a lot of information into consideration, including arguments about what legal purpose you might have used the alleged paraphernalia for.


Some common examples of drug paraphernalia that people are charged for include things like pipes, scales, baggies, and various containers.  In many cases, some of these items have a legal use (such as with a kitchen scale or a baggie), so it is up to the government to prove it was indeed used for drugs by showing there was drug residue on them or some evidence that drugs were stored in the container.

Exceptions/Legal “Paraphernalia”

There are some specific carve-outs for items that do not qualify as paraphernalia, even if they are used with drugs.

First, since marijuana is legal for personal use in small amounts as well as for medical purposes, it is not illegal to possess or use paraphernalia related to marijuana use.  That means that bongs, rolling papers, and other similar items should be completely legal.

Additionally, there is a carve-out for hypodermic needles.  There is a public interest in helping people with drug problems avoid sharing or reusing needs to cut down on the transmission of diseases.  As such, hypodermic needles are specifically excluded from the definition of paraphernalia for charging purposes.  However, evidence that you possessed hypodermic needles can be used for other purposes in court, such as using the presence of a hypodermic needle as evidence that you used drugs or to form probable cause for a search for drugs.  Our attorneys will do what we can to use the argument that needles are legal against these kinds of assertions.

Fentanyl testing strips are also excluded as being paraphernalia.  This is also a policy decision to help keep people safe from ingesting something they didn’t know contained fentanyl.

Fines and Jail Time for Paraphernalia Charges in NJ

If you were arrested and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, then you could be facing some severe penalties.  Possession of paraphernalia is a “disorderly persons offense” in New Jersey, which is what other states would call a “misdemeanor.”  This technically means it isn’t a “crime,” but possession of paraphernalia can nonetheless result in a fine up to $1,000 and jail time of up to 6 months.

Keep in mind that paraphernalia charges are often added on to other charges for the drugs themselves.  While police and prosecutors can charge you with paraphernalia all on its own, they usually need evidence that there were trace amounts or more of the drugs on the paraphernalia to show that what you had was illegal paraphernalia and not just a legal baggie or kitchen scale.  You can be charged with a crime for even a small amount or trace amounts of drugs, inflating the potential penalties you face.  If you were caught with a more substantial amount of drugs and the paraphernalia charges are simply add-ons, then the penalties would still be higher overall.

It is important to note that multiple items could lead to multiple paraphernalia charges.  You never know whether an aggressive prosecutor will charge you with multiple counts for multiple baggies or something egregious, and we may be able to get the ultimate penalties reduced if the court considers the group of objects one singular count of paraphernalia rather than multiple.

Call Our Drug Paraphernalia Lawyers in NJ Today

Call (609) 616-4956 today for a free case review with the NJ criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych.

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