“Paraphernalia” is a strange word, but one that most of us have heard at some point in our lives. But what exactly does it mean? And what are the legal consequences involved if it is criminal contraband? The term paraphernalia is used in many contexts and has varying legal consequences depending on circumstances, such as, whether you are in possession of paraphernalia or whether you manufacture paraphernalia. In the (penal) drug world, possession of paraphernalia in defined as possession of “an instrument, a device, or another object that the person intends to use for” (1) introducing drugs into one’s body; (2) testing drugs; or (3) enhancing the effect of drugs1. As you may guess, defining paraphernalia is not always cut and dry. The Indiana Court of Appeals just dealt with this thorny issue in its recent opinion of Granger v. State2, which is the focus of this blog post. Granger illustrates the balance toward a strict interpretation of criminal acts to preserve individual freedom from the dangers of potentially criminalizing everything.
In Granger, the Court of Appeals had to decide whether a grinder used to “grind marijuana into finer pieces for ‘easier’ consumption”3 constituted paraphernalia in accordance with the Indiana Statute. If it did, Granger committed a criminal act. If not, the grinder was a legal object. Specifically, in Granger, the Defendant was pulled over by a police officer after speeding. During the traffic stop, the police officer noticed the “grinder” sitting in the door of the vehicle. The grinder had marijuana inside of it, but nothing else incriminating was found in the Defendant’s vehicle. The Defendant was subsequently charged with possession of paraphernalia as a Class C misdemeanor. On appeal, the Defendant argued that the State presented insufficient evidence to support his conviction of paraphernalia possession. The Court of Appeals agreed with the Defendant and reversed the decision of the trial court.
In making its determination, the Court of Appeals focused heavily on the wording of the statute. Criminal statutes are strictly construed to make clear what acts are criminal, and which ones are not. The importance, and purpose, of this strict interpretation, is the potential loss of your freedom. The Court pointed out that the State was required to show that the Defendant intended to use the grinder for “introducing into [his] body a controlled substance.4” The Court went on to define what “introduce into the body” meant and determined that a grinder cannot be used to introduce drugs into the body. It merely changes the drug, but cannot be used to introduce the drug into your body. In reaching this conclusion, the Court stated, “there is a material distinction between possession of an instrument or device that can only be used to prepare a controlled substance for consumption and possession of an instrument or device that can be used to introduce a controlled substance into the body.5” As such, a grinder used only for the preparation of using marijuana is not paraphernalia in accordance with the statute.
This area of law is extremely technical, while also having the potential to completely change the course of your life. An individual who is unaware of their rights may have them violated without even knowing, leading to a negative (criminal) result for you. The importance of understanding the status of developments in the law is the key to avoiding criminal liability, as well as being an engaged citizen in our participatory system of government. This blog post on a key new case was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle criminal defense cases and appeals of criminal convictions throughout the state. Knowing the law is a key to be an engaged citizen. Having criminal defense counsel current on the latest developments in law provides you with the best criminal defense. This blog is written for educational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.