What is Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia: Understanding NY PL 220.50

Though the topic of drug crimes often conjures thoughts of sales, trafficking, or even mere possession of illegal substances, there is another important category of offense that is regularly prosecuted in New York courts. In fact, you may have been arrested an issued a Desk Appearance Ticket, or DAT, for this crime in addition to possessing a controlled substance or marijuana. What is this offense you ask? Second Degree Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia, New York Penal Law 220.50.

Second Degree Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia is classified as an “A” misdemeanor and is capable of producing serious consequences for those convicted of doing so, but understanding the law and the statute is your first step in protecting your future.

Understanding New York Penal Law 220.50

The offense articulated by New York Penal Law 220.50 involves knowing possession or sale of an array of items commonly used in the manufacturing, packaging, and/or sale of illegal drugs.

The conduct associated with such a charge need not be related to a high-volume drug operation, but rather can result from the acts of even a small-time operator in the realm of controlled substance use and distribution. For that matter, “regular” users, both addicts and recreational, can find themselves facing this offense.

While this particular crime is a Class “A” misdemeanor instead of a felony, that is not to say that the ramifications of being found guilty can be ignored.

There are three main categories of drug paraphernalia possession which may give rise to this type of criminal charge. An individual can face prosecution for criminally using drug paraphernalia if they are found to possess:

  • diletants, diluents, or adulterants such as hydrochloride, quinine, mannite, mannitol, lactose, dextrose, and other substances adapted for the purpose of diluting narcotics or stimulants in a situation indicative of an intent to use them, in order to illegally compound, mix, or otherwise prepare controlled substances


  • glassine envelopes, gelatine capsules, vials, or other materials used in the packaging of individual portions of narcotics or stimulants in a situation that indicates an intent to use them in order to unlawfully package, manufacture, or dispense controlled substances


  • scales and balances meant to measure or weigh controlled substances under circumstances indicative of an intent to unlawfully package, manufacture, or dispense controlled substances

Substances Covered in A Drug Paraphernalia Charge

Defendants and others need to understand that simple possession of the materials described above in and of themselves may be insufficient to establish guilt under this statute. Rather, possession often occurs together with drugs that have been officially designated as narcotics, controlled substances, or stimulants thereby giving prosecutors stronger footing.

Among these are substances that include cocaine, heroin, LSD, and their chemical derivatives. The presence of paraphernalia combined with a substance not statutorily defined as a narcotic or prohibited stimulant should not be enough for a charge of criminally using drug paraphernalia, but depends on too many factors to address in a blog entry. That said, there are numerous court decisions specifically articulating that marijuana possession is a violation of New York Penal Law Article 221 while controlled substance crimes are are addressed in New York Penal Law Article 220. Therefore, to find one guilty of PL 220.50, a nexus to marijuana is not sufficient as its categorized differently than the “harder” drugs.

Consequences of Drug Paraphernalia Conviction

First and foremost, those found guilty of this crime can face up to a full year in jail even if it is far from likely for a first or even second time offender.

However, that may be the least of your worries, because the creation of a criminal record or exacerbation of an existing one may erect serious obstacles to retaining or securing employment, continuing with favorable custodial arrangements, retaining lawful immigration status, and generally leading a productive life.

Instead of frightening you, this blog should serve as a means to begin your education on and about PL 220.50. Take the steps to further learn about this crime and retain an attorney to best challenge the allegations or mitigate your conduct. Additional materials analyzing PL 220.50, as well as New York Desk Appearance Tickets, is available through the provided links.

Saland Law PC is a New York criminal defense firm founded by two former Manhattan prosecutors. The New York criminal defense lawyers at Saland Law PC represent clients accused of drug crimes, including Second Degree Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia throughout the New York City and suburban region.

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