Federal Drug Laws for "Drug Paraphernalia" (21 U.S.C. § 863)
Explained by Nevada Criminal Defense Attorneys

Img federal paraphernalia

It is a federal crime in Nevada to sell or transport drug paraphernalia. A conviction can include a prison sentence of several years. But a skilled Nevada criminal defense lawyer may be able to negotiate the charges down or even have them dismissed altogether.

This page contains a legal summary of the federal crime of "drug paraphernalia" in Nevada. Scroll down to learn the relevant laws, possible defenses, and potential penalties.


Federal law makes it unlawful in Nevada for someone to sell or transport drug paraphernalia. Specifically, it is illegal to either:

  1. sell or offer for sale drug paraphernalia; or
  2. use the mails or any other facility of interstate commerce to transport drug paraphernalia; or
  3. import or export drug paraphernalia.

Note that this law does not prohibit buying drug paraphernalia or possessing it for personal use. However, buying and possessing paraphernalia is illegal under Nevada state law. Moapa NV criminal defense attorney Michael Becker  gives an example:

Example: A cop sees Jason buying a roach clip on the street and taking it to his Las Vegas home. The cop then arrests Jason, books him at the Clark County Detention Center, and searches Jason's home, where the cop finds several more roach clips. As long as Jason had the roach clips for personal use, he may be convicted for Nevada paraphernalia crimes but not federal crimes.

However if the prosecution in the above example can show that Jason imported the roach clips or had them delivered through the mail, then he may also be liable under federal paraphernalia laws.

What constitutes "paraphernalia"

The legal definition of "drug paraphernalia" under federal law means any equipment which is primarily intended for use in manufacturing, compounding, converting, concealing, producing, processing, preparing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance. Examples include:

  • metal, wooden, acrylic, glass, stone, plastic, or ceramic pipes with or without screens, permanent screens, hashish heads, or punctured metal bowls
  • water pipes
  • carburetor pipes
  • electric pipes
  • air-driven pipes
  • carburetion tubes and devices
  • smoking and carburetion masks
  • roach clips
  • miniature spoons with level capacities of a one-tenth cubic centimeter or less
  • chamber pipes
  • chillums
  • bongs
  • ice pipes or chillers
  • wired cigarette papers
  • cocaine freebase kits

In many cases, it is debatable whether a particular item is drug paraphernalia or something else that is entirely legal. Nevada Federal Court considers the following factors when determining whether an item qualifies as drug paraphernalia:

  • instructions, oral or written, provided with the item concerning its use
  • descriptive materials accompanying the item which explain or depict its use
  • direct or circumstantial evidence of the ratio of sales of the item to the total sales of the business enterprise
  • the existence and scope of legitimate uses of the item in the community
  • expert testimony concerning its use
  • national and local advertising concerning its use
  • the manner in which the item is displayed for sale
  • whether the owner, or anyone in control of the item, is a legitimate supplier of like or related items to the community

Note that an item is not considered paraphernalia if it is traditionally intended for use with tobacco products, including any pipe, paper, or accessory.

Federal law vs. Nevada law

Nevada state law regarding drug paraphernalia is very different than federal law. Whereas federal law punishes only the acts of selling or transporting paraphernalia, Nevada state law also prohibits possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use it, advertising drug paraphernalia, and intending to sell drug paraphernalia.

Also unlike federal law, Nevada law does not hold a defendant liable if he/she did not know that the items in question were drug paraphernalia. Federal law has no similar "knowledge" requirement. Learn more in our article about
Nevada drug paraphernalia laws.


The federal offense of selling or transporting drug paraphernalia is not a specific intent crime . . . this means it is no defense that the defendant did not realize the items in question were drug paraphernalia. However, there are various other defense strategies available to fight federal drug paraphernalia allegations in Nevada:

  • No paraphernalia: Sometimes law enforcement mistakes an innocent item for drug paraphernalia. This is especially true for papers and pipes meant for tobacco. If the defense attorney can show that the alleged paraphernalia is in fact legal, then the case should be dismissed.
  • Reasonable doubt: For a defendant to be found guilty on federal paraphernalia charges, the U.S. Attorney's Office has to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high bar to achieve. If the defense attorney can persuade the court that the prosecution's evidence falls short of that bar, then the defendant should not be held criminally liable.
  • Illegal search: The U.S. Marshals Service is required to abide by proper rules and procedures when investigating any criminal case. In the event that law enforcement overstepped their bounds in a drug paraphernalia case, the defense attorney could then file a Nevada motion to suppress evidence to ask the judge to overlook any evidence obtained through the cops' unlawful activity. Assuming the motion is granted and the evidence is thrown out, the defendant may be acquitted on grounds that the prosecution has too weak of a case to sustain a conviction.


The punishment for selling or transporting drug paraphernalia under federal law is a sentence of:

Furthermore, law enforcement may seize and forfeit the drug paraphernalia involved in the case. The paraphernalia may then either be destroyed or used for educational purposes by government authorities.

Note that federal drug paraphernalia cases in Nevada are handled in only one of two courthouses. They are the Lloyd D. George Federal Courthouse in Las Vegas, and the Bruce R. Thompson Federal Courthouse in Reno.

Nevada state drug paraphernalia penalties

The Nevada crimes of possessing drug paraphernalia with intent to use it and advertising drug paraphernalia are misdemeanors in Nevada. The sentence carries up to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. (NRS 453.566; NRS 453.564)

The Nevada crimes of selling, delivering, or manufacturing drug paraphernalia with the knowledge that the items will be used for drugs are category E felonies in Nevada. The sentence carries one to four years in Nevada state prison. But the judge will typically grant probation for a first-time offense. (NRS 453.560; NRS 453.562)

Charged? Phone us . . . .

If you have been placed under arrest for federal "drug paraphernalia" crimes in Nevada, our Nevada federal criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) can consult with you for free about your case. We may be able to achieve a full dismissal or significant charge reduction. And if necessary we can take your matter all the way to trial to pursue a "not guilty" verdict.

For information in California, visit our page on California drug paraphernalia laws in Penal Code 11364.



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