It's true ... and a judge, prosecutor, police officer, and even your own defense attorney probably won't tell you before you are found guilty of a drug offense. Yet it is something every college student, or future college student, should know.
The penalties can be severe and one fleeting bad decision can cost you thousands of dollars in student aid or put your education, and life, "on hold" for years.
It is essential to know ALL OF THE FACTS before appearing in criminal court. In Philadelphia, for instance, people charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana are often offered a fine and "no further penalty" in exchange for giving up their right to a trial.
Well, if you are, or plan on being, a student that uses federal financial aid to help pay for school there will be a further penalty that no one in the courtroom will tell you about.
Under federal regulations drug conviction can result in the loss of eligibility to receive federal financial aid. If someone is convicted of possessing a drug for personal use, the first offense results in a one-year period of ineligibility from the date of conviction. A second offense leads to a two-year period of ineligibility, and a third offense leads to an indefinite period of ineligibility.
The consequences are even more severe for someone that is convicted of possessing a drug with the intent to deliver it to others (for money or not). The first offense can result in a two-year period of ineligibility to receive federal financial aid, and a second offense can lead to an indefinite period of ineligibility.
There are procedures in place for students to regain eligibility, but they are time consuming and can be expensive (e.g., completion of a "qualified" drug rehabilitation program and passing unannounced drug tests). However, the best course is to avoid a conviction for a drug offense in the first place.
If you or someone you know are charged with a drug offense, choosing the right attorney is essential. You should immediately contact a lawyer who has experience with the defense of drug cases in Pennsylvania. Drug convictions carry many "hidden" penalties that you do not become aware of until it is too late. Michael Parkinson, Timothy Tarpey and Jim Lloyd are criminal defense attorneys and former Philadelphia Assistant District Attorneys with more than 40 years of experience who have handled thousands of drug cases. Talk to an experienced attorney before you face the possibility of imprisonment, loss of your financial aid, or an interruption in your education.