Centre County Drug Case – Pipe Was a Pipe, Not a Marijuana Pipe

Paraphernalia Charges Dismissed and Expunged

Client was walking across the University Park campus of Penn State near the East Hall dorms with two friends. An officer was also walking in the area and believed that he smelled marijuana. The Penn State officer stopped Client and friend and conducted an investigative detention. The officer asked the three men to empty their pockets. Client turned over a package of lawful, synthetic marijuana and the pipe that Client had been using. The officer used a field test on the synthetic marijuana, and it tested negative. However, a field test of the pipe produced a positive result. Client was charged with Possession of Paraphernalia, 35 P.S. 780-113(a)(32).

Client was adamant that marijuana had never been smoked in the pipe, so the results of the field test were wrong. At the first court appearance, State College criminal defense attorney Jason S. Dunkle explained to the proseutor that scientific studies show that field tests often produce inaccurate results. The district attorney sent the pipe to the Pennsylvania State Police for more extensive, forensic testing. The test results showed that the residue in the pipe was not marijuana. Attorney Dunkle then argued that the prosecutor must dismiss the charge. A common, lawfully possessed item can be considered paraphernalia IF the item is used for drug purposes. For example, a plastic water bottle or soda can becomes paraphernalia if it is used as a bong or smoking device. A sandwich baggy or pill container becomes paraphernalia if they are used to store drugs. Here, there was no evidence that the pipe was used to smoke actual marijuana, so this pipe was not paraperhanlia.

The Centre County prosecutor ultimately agreed to dismiss the charge after Attorney Dunkle filed a pre-trial motion to suppress evidence and dismiss the charge.  After the charge was dismissed, Attorney Dunkle used the expungement process to have the dismissed charges expunged from Client’s criminal record.