Drug convictions can really mess up a person's life. From possible jail time and expensive fines, to restrictions on employment and housing, those with drug crime convictions on their record often continue to face an uphill battle, even after they have served the requirements of a sentence. For college students, though, the consequences do not stop there.
A drug conviction can mean a halt to financial aid. A U.S. News article, "Drug Convictions Can Send Financial Aid Up In Smoke," focuses on just how devastating a drug conviction can be for a college student.
Any drug conviction can count against a college student
Financial aid eligibility can be lost for all types of drug convictions. From simple marijuana possession to drug trafficking, any federal or state drug charge can result in a loss of financial aid.
Timing of arrest and conviction affects aid eligibility
The time of a drug conviction - not necessarily the arrest - will dictate when eligibility is affected. For example, if a student is arrested for marijuana possession in February while receiving aid, but is not convicted until July when not receiving aid, the conviction could affect future financial aid.
However, if the timetable was reversed, and the arrest was in July - while not receiving aid - and the conviction is in February, since the arrest happened while not enrolled, the conviction would not count against federal aid. For eligibility to be affected, the crime needs to happen while the student is receiving aid.
There is an exception to the rule when the arrest is tied to drug trafficking. With drug trafficking cases, the judge can still decide to deny certain federal benefits, such as federal student aid.
Is financial aid eligibility gone forever?
The answer to this question depends on the crime. For example, if this were a student's first conviction for possession, he or she would lose aid for a year. For a second possession conviction, eligibility is gone for two years. However, if it's a third possession offense, eligibility is lost indefinitely. However, if the charge is related to selling or conspiring to sell, eligibility is lost for two years for the first offense and indefinitely for the second.
Please note, though, that there is a loophole for some students. Knowing that some really depend on financial aid - and a lapse in eligibility would mean having to put off college -- the current law does allow people to regain eligibility earlier if they complete a qualified drug rehabilitation program and pass certain requirements, including passing two drug tests.
An attorney can help
In general, though, the No. 1 way to avoid losing financial aid is to avoid a drug conviction. This is why all college students are greatly encouraged to reach out to a criminal defense attorney after a drug arrest.