Effective July 1, 2015, people will be given immunity from prosecution for possession of drug paraphernalia and small amounts of drug possession under certain circumstances. The legislature has amended the drug paraphernalia and drug possession statutes to encourage people to tell police officers and medical personnel if they have a hypodermic needle, syringe or other sharp object in their possession. This is to ensure officer and medical personnel safety. The protection applies whether the person voluntarily shares the information or if the person is responding to a specific question. Possession in this context includes on the person, on the person’s premises or in the person’s car. Similarly, if the identified drug paraphernalia contains residual drugs, so long as the person told the officer or medical personnel about the needle, syringe or other sharp object, the person is immune from prosecution for drug possession as it relates to any residual amount. This immunity does not apply to large amounts of drugs. The statute does not state a cut off for what constitutes a residual amount.
Not only does this immunity prohibit the prosecution from filing a drug paraphernalia or possession charge(s), but it also prevents police from arresting people for drug paraphernalia or possession suspicions. However, any drug paraphernalia found, whether it’s due to a confession or not, may be used in making a probable cause determination. For example, let’s say a police officer stops a driver for driving erratically and the driver shows some indicia of intoxication leading the officer to think drugs might be involved. The officer then asks the driver if he has used any drugs recently and the driver says he has not done any drugs, but there is a needle in his pocket. The driver should not be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, but the officer could consider the possession of the needle to determine whether the officer had probable cause to ask the driver to submit to a drug test as part of a DUI investigation.