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Possession of Drug Abuse Instruments

In Ohio, it isn’t only possession of drugs that can get you arrested. You also can end up in handcuffs for possessing a hypodermic needle or a syringe that has been used to take an illegal drug, such as to inject heroin. Possession of drug abuse instruments is a serious misdemeanor crime in Ohio that can lead to jail time, fines, and loss of your driver’s license.

If you’ve been charged with possession of drug abuse instruments, an experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to help minimize the consequences of a conviction or get your case dismissed.

Drug Abuse Instruments vs. Drug Paraphernalia

Ohio Rev. Code 2925.12 makes it a misdemeanor crime to make, possess, obtain or use drug abuse instruments. The statute specifically applies to any hypodermic or syringe that has the primary purpose of allowing the user to administer a dangerous drug, and that has been used to take an illegal drug. So a hypodermic needle used along with a syringe to inject heroin would be a drug abuse instrument under the statute. The statute specifically exempts instruments used to administer marijuana.

The possession or use of hypodermics and syringes also are covered under the state’s drug paraphernalia statute (Ohio Rev. Code 2925.14), but the drug abuse instruments statute typically is the one used to prosecute for possession of hypodermics and syringes while the drug paraphernalia statute is more broadly applied to many other types of items associated with drug use. Additionally, the possession of drug abuse instruments statute is a more serious class of misdemeanor than possession of drug paraphernalia.

Penalties for Possession of Drug Abuse Instruments

Possessing drug abuse instruments is a second-degree misdemeanor in Ohio. The possible penalties include up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $750. Further, the statute gives courts the option to suspend your driver’s license. When your suspension is over, you would be responsible for paying additional fees to get your driver’s license back.

When you’re convicted of possessing drug abuse instruments and already have another conviction on your record for any drug abuse offense, the possession offense is a first-degree misdemeanor. Possible punishment includes up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

In addition to the penalties in Ohio statutes, you face a number of other consequences when you’re convicted of a drug offense. First, you’ll now have a permanent criminal record that brands you as a drug offender. Your drug conviction will show up in background checks, and many employers don’t want to hire people who have a criminal history with drugs. Likewise, many landlords will refuse to rent to someone with a drug offense on their criminal record.

If you’re a college student or thinking about applying to a college or university, your drug conviction may affect your chances at getting federally backed grants or student loans to pay for your education.

A drug offense also may affect your immigration status if you’re not already an American citizen. You may be denied a visa or green card, or may be denied citizenship with a drug offense on your record.

Defenses to a Possession Charge

To convict you of possessing drug abuse instruments, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you possessed, made, obtained, or used the hypodermic or syringe. Possession can be actual — usually meaning you had physical possession of the instrument — or constructive. To prove constructive possession, the prosecutor must have evidence that the hypodermic or syringe was within your dominion and control, which essentially means that you had the ability to take possession if it wasn’t on your person. If the instrument at the heart of your charge was not on your person, but instead was found in your vicinity, there may be room to challenge whether you had “possession” of the instrument.

Because the statute makes it a crime to knowingly possess drug abuse instruments, the prosecutor also must prove that you knew you were in possession of the hypodermic or syringe. If, for example, someone put them in your backpack without your knowledge, you may have a defense to the possession charge.

Additionally, the prosecutor has to prove that you used the hypodermic or syringe for the unlawful administration of a dangerous drug. You may have a defense to the charge if the instruments had never been used, or if you had a legitimate reason to possess or use the hypodermic or syringe, such as to take a legal prescription medication, and did not possess the instruments for the purpose of administering a dangerous drug.

In drug cases, defense strategies also may involve challenging the procedures police used to find evidence or to arrest you. Some common defenses include:

  • The police didn’t have a warrant to search you or your property
  • The police had no probable cause to arrest you
  • The police used illegal surveillance or wiretapping to find evidence against you
  • The police didn’t properly administer your Miranda rights warning
  • The police otherwise violated your constitutional rights when searching you, arresting you, or collecting evidence against you
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If you’ve been charged with possession of drug abuse instruments, it’s important to know what you’re up against. If you have any questions left unanswered by this page, or if you need a competent, experienced attorney to fight for you in court, please contact us at or via email at advice@columbuscriminalattorney.com.

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