What Are the Charges and Penalties For Drug Paraphernalia in Ohio?

Possessing drug paraphernalia leads to charges almost as often as possessing drugs themselves. The article below will lay out the definition and penalties for such charges and possible circumstances leading to these charges.

Because what defines drug paraphernalia can be broad in scope, possession of said paraphernalia can occur even when items typically associated with the crime, such as bongs, syringes, or pipes, are not present at the scene. That’s because although all states criminalize possession of paraphernalia, the laws as they are written are broad and vague enough that a court of law can mark almost anything as paraphernalia if they so choose.

Most state laws list specific things they regard as paraphernalia and thus prohibit. Often, such things as hypodermic needles, certain vials, or mini spoons will be listed among these laws. Everyone should keep in mind that the laws can also extend to anything that a person uses to weigh or package drugs too, such as plastic wrap or a weighing machine.
Intended Use Matters

Although many items commonly used in the manufacture and sale of drugs are explicitly tied to the process, other items that are not. Common household items or appliances are often used for these purposes. If a prosecutor believes this to be the case, he or she will try to show that the person owning the items—a large amount of plastic packaging wrap for example—intended to use them when making drugs, thus arguing that the court should label the items as paraphernalia.

Specific Circumstances

If a prosecutor is attempting to make the case for drug paraphernalia regarding an object, the court will look at a variety of factors related to the case. Whether the item was in proximity to drugs, the accused made implicit statements about the objects, or whether investigators found any residue on the items are questions the court will ask. There is not a comprehensive test that can apply broadly to all cases everywhere, thus courts have great discretion when making these rulings.

Was the Possession Actual, or Constructive?

It’s important for readers to understand that the prosecutor can try to convict even if a person has no drug paraphernalia on them at the time of the arrest. An actual possession charge occurs if someone is carrying paraphernalia in a pocket, bag or backpack. But the court may charge the accused with constructive possession if the prosecutor shows that the accused still had control over the item even when it wasn’t on their person, such as having the paraphernalia in their home.

Possession With Intent vs. Simple Possession

Most courts will distinguish between whether a drug crime is just possession or whether there is clear intent to distribute the product. Possession charges occur if it’s a case of the accused having drugs for personal use. Distribution charges happen when investigators find a link between owning the drugs or paraphernalia and selling them to others.


Drug paraphernalia in Ohio is never a felony. Penalty provisions for this misdemeanor charge can range from a fine of $150.00 up to $1000.00, 0-180 days in jail and a possible 6 months to 3 year license suspension. The defendant is often sentenced to a term of probation as well. Possession sentencing carries far lighter penalties than does manufacturing or distribution sentencing.

Jail Time

Various drug laws may allow up to a full year in prison although sentences of three months are also common. Courts can choose to impose a prison sentence or tack on a fine as an extra penalty.

Time Served

The accused will spend some amount of time in jail prior the actual conviction. If so, a court may rule that the time already served before the court date is the jail sentence itself, thus not requiring the accused to spend any additional time behind bars.

Paying Fines

A court will often choose to impose a monetary fine in lieu of jail time for drug offenses. This is especially true if the accused is a first-time offender. Penalty provisions for this misdemeanor charge can range from a fine of $150.00 up to $1000.00, 0-180 days in jail and a possible 6 months to 3 year license suspension. The defendant is often sentenced to a term of probation as well.


The court may require a probationary period which generally lasts for twelve months at least and requires the convicted individual to maintain certain guidelines, such as performing drug tests, keeping a job, and committing no further crimes.


If the accused is a first-time offender, the court may decide that diversion is the proper course of action. In such cases, the accused can try to make up for their crimes and thus avoid a conviction. They do this by following rules and conditions that are quite like those applied to probations. The prosecutor will drop all charges once the accused successfully completes the diversionary program.

Possession charges are often much more serious than most people realize. It’s vital that anyone facing such charges speak to a local lawyer to ensure the best possible outcome in court proceedings.

We welcome you to contact the attorneys of Spaulding & Kitzler today to schedule your Free Initial Criminal Defense Consultation.