US Law: "Reckless possession of paraphernalia?"

This morning I read a newsitem in which a couple of miscreants were incidentally charged with “Reckless possession of paraphernalia,” which is a new concept to me.

I looked it up in the USC and I’m still not sure that I understand it.

Maybe I’m being misled by the “reckless” aspect of it, since there is a natural tendency to compare it to offences such as “reckless driving.” As near as I can make out, however, this is different from such cases in that the unreckoned consequences referred to are the penalties imposed by the state, rather than any hypothetical harm to a third-party.

Am I reading this right? Does this mean that I’m guilty of a misdemeanor offence if I’m walking around Orange County with a pack of gummed onionskins in my back pocket – unless I’ve already been caught once, in which case I’m committing a felony?

If so, how do so many Americans avoid prison?

If I’m reading this right (IANAL) the difference is that possesion in the first instance is with intent to use, and reckless possession is where the intent to use is undetermined. I’m assuming that a misdemeanour (Class B) is a lesser offense than an infraction (class A)

I don’t think possesion of rolly papers would give a conviction, you might want to ask this in ** Badges ** ‘ask a cop’ thread (can’t link, damn hamsters).

Eric Schlosser does a good job at portraying the massive hypocrisy inherent in American drug laws. It is crazy that the penalties differ so much from place to place, from a small fine to decades of imprisonement. It is distasteful the way enforcement of the law differs if you are the son of a senator or are poor and lacking friends in high places.

I also do not understand the law. I think its purpose is to give a lot of extra leeway to cops who wish to prosecute someone. But I have a whole set of knives in my kitchen drawer. Didn’t Tommy Chong just get nailed with this one?