The criminal offense of possession of drug paraphernalia requires that a person possesses the drug paraphernalia with the primary intent to use it in order to produce, plant, ingest, test or package a controlled substance. While you may have constructively possessed the drug paraphernalia (if it indeed qualifies as "drug paraphernalia") by having it within your boat, you have not committed the crime if you did not possess it with the intent to use it. It would be hard to intend to use something you didn't even know you possessed. Issues of intent are primarily jury questions, however a criminal complaint can be attacked as insufficient to support a charge if there is nothing to support the intent element.
Furthermore, not all pipes qualify as drug paraphernalia. The statutes specifically exclude from the definition of drug paraphernalia, " [a]ny items, including pipes, papers and accessories, that are designed for use or primarily intended for use with tobacco products."
Negotiating lesser offenses is generally a possibility, though it always depends upon the circumstances of the case, the jurisdiction you are charged in and even the attorneys handling the case. Amendments to ordinance violations is possible in some jurisdictions.
You need a lawyer, who would evaluate your case for a possible challenge to probable cause for your initial stop. A lighting violation does not necessarily allow an unlimited search, once the citation for the minor offense has been issued, assuming that you did not grant permission. If the judge does not believe that the complete search of the boat was reasonable under the circumstances, he would dismiss the charges or suppress the evidence. Another possibility is plea bargaining, which might get you a reduction to a non-drug related charge, assuming that you have a clean record. Finally, if all else fails and you did not know that the pipe was on your boat, you could have a jury trial. If each of the jurors does not unanimously agree that your knowledge that it was present was proven beyond a reasonable doubt, there would be either an acquittal (if unanimous), or a mistrial. After a mistrial, your bargaining position often improves, so you would have another potential chance for a reduction. You are right to be concerned about a drug conviction in a state like WI which publishes all criminal convictions on the internet as public records for all to see, including potential employers. Please do not assume that I am your attorney because of my response here, but feel free to call my office in Racine (262-633-3090 or email firstname.lastname@example.org) for clarifications regarding my answer. Otherwise, under the rules of this website, I would not be taking any further action on your case. See me on the web at www.jayknixonlaw.com. View my past answers at http://www.avvo.com/attorneys/53401-wi-jay-nixon-1529181/answers.html?sort=recency , or see an even larger collection of responses at http://www.lawguru.com/answers/search/attorney/jknixon, . Answers may contain attorney advertising materials.
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You can get this knocked down or dismissed. But the catch is this, you'll never be able to get it dismissed on your own. You may be able to get a reduction, but the prosecutor isn't going to just hand it to you.
You need to make a case and begin to show the DA reasons why you deserve such a reduction. That is where an attorney is going to be the most helpful. While working on the negotiations, s/he will be preparing the case for trial. And their relationships will help you.