High Court to Weigh Intent Test in Drug Paraphernalia Case
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether a since-repealed federal drug paraphernalia law required proof that a defendant intended to sell an item for use with drugs.
The court said it will hear an appeal by a Des Moines, Iowa, store owner who said federal courts wrongly interpreted the law.
Congress replaced the law in 1990 when it enacted a new ban on the sale of drug paraphernalia.
Lana Christine Acty and her company, Posters ‘N’ Things, were convicted in 1990 of conspiracy and using interstate means in a scheme to sell drug paraphernalia. Ms. Acty also was convicted of aiding the manufacture and sale of cocaine, money laundering and other related charges.
She was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined $150,000. Her company was fined $75,000.
Officials had used a warrant to search her home and business and confiscated drug paraphernalia including pipes, scales and chemicals often used to dilute illegal drugs.
The defunct federal law specified that some items such as water pipes are drug paraphernalia.
The trial judge gave jurors a list of rules to use in deciding whether others - such as diluting chemicals - were intended for drug use. The standards included how the items were displayed and advertised.
The seller’s intent was not at issue, the judge said. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that interpretation of the law.
In appealing to the Supreme Court, Ms. Acty argued that none of the items seized in the search was primarily intended for use with illegal drugs.
Prosecutors should have been required to prove such intent by Ms. Acty and her company, the appeal said. The standard used by the judge violated her due- process rights by requiring her to prove the items were not intended for use with illegal drugs, the appeal said.
Several other federal appeals courts have required proof of the seller’s intent.
The 8th Circuit court’s ruling ″puts vast amounts of retail inventory items in serious jeopardy,″ the appeal said.
Justice Department lawyers contended, however, that the old law did not set any requirement that the items be sold with the intent for use as drug paraphernalia.
The case is Posters ‘N’ Things vs. U.S., 92-903.