Young people caught with even small quantities of marijuana or more serious drugs can face significant hardships in their efforts to improve themselves by attending trade schools, colleges or universities. This issue is explored at length in a fantastic article found on Raw Story.
Since 1998, students with drug convictions are barred from receiving Pell Grants or other federally subsidized student aid, including loans, for up to two years. In many cases, this disqualification period deterred the persons from ever pursuing higher education.
This penalty applies whether the drug crime is a misdemeanor or a felony. The author of the study described in the article noted that even a small penalty like community service for a drug conviction triggers this rule, meaning that that this law is lumping those who face serious drug convictions in with those who had minor possession charges.
The relevant federal law provides that the bar to federal financial aid applies for one year from the conviction for a first offense, for two years from the conviction for a second offense, and is indefinite int he case of a third conviction, where the offense involves possession of a controlled substance.
Where the offense is for sale of a controlled substance, a first conviction earns a two year bar, and a second offense bars the person indefinitely.
It is obvious that the best way to avoid these penalties is not to be charged with a drug crime. However, there are situations where people through little fault of their own find themselves charged with such a crime.
If a person is considering higher education and is arrested for a drug crime, the person should immediately consult with a competent criminal defense lawyer. The case may be defensible. Even where there is not a strong defense, there are often alternatives which will allow the person to avoid a conviction, such as pretrial diversion, conditional discharge, or first offender.
Where the person is convicted of the offense, it is possible to shorten the period of suspension by completing a qualifying drug rehabilitation program that includes at least two unannounced drug tests. Making sure that a program will meet the requirements of the federal regulations is a significant enterprise itself. It may also be possible to go back and challenge and set aside the conviction.
Some effort has been made to set aside this law, but Congress has failed to act. Consider a student preparing to go to college is caught in possession of a tiny quantity of marijuana. I have seen defendants facing possession charges for tiny fragments of leaves brushed from the rear floorboard carpeting of an automobile. Georgia law does not provide for a de minimis quantity of a controlled substance. There is no quantity so tiny that a willing police officer and a willing prosecutor cannot pursue charges. Yet, such a tiny quantity can completely derail a person's plan to improve themselves through education.
Black Law Offices, LLC, is here and ready to assist you with navigating the minefields related to criminal charges. Give us a call if you are facing a charge in Northeast Georgia