The Collateral Consequences of a Drug ConvictionNovember 28, 2015
There has been significant discussion of drug reform in the United States. Some states have allowed for recreational marijuana while some cities, including Philadelphia, have either relaxed marijuana laws or decriminalized its use. Despite the progressive laws adopted by more and more cities and states, marijuana and other drugs are illegal as they remain listed under the Federal Controlled Substances Act. Thus, individuals continue to risk potential drug convictions and collateral consequences resulting from an arrest. This could result in jail time, hefty fines, potential probation, and mandatory drug testing.
Today, the United States’ prison population, both at the state and federal levels, continues to increase. In 2014, drug-related prisoners made up 50.1% of the federal prison population and 15.7% of all combined state prisoners.  Drug convictions can have many additional collateral consequences in addition to prison sentences, however.
Drug Convictions May Result in Difficulty Obtaining Employment
Employers regularly engage in background screening of potential new employees. Background screening is used by employers in order to determine the veracity of your personal identification and past employment. Further, it provides information they can use to determine whether a potential new employee has any past convictions which the employer determines could create a potential liability for the company. Employers performing background checks may conclude that their findings regarding a potential new employee should disqualify them from employment. Some organizations may be required to deny employment altogether if there is a past criminal conviction.
There is a high probability that a drug conviction will appear on a criminal background check. Whether new or even decades-old, this conviction can lead an employer to deny the potential new employee the position. A small glimpse into one’s past could prevent him or her from obtaining necessary employment.
Disqualification from Federal Financial Aid
A drug conviction can impact an individuals access to the federal financial aid funds he or she requires in order to pay for his or her studies. Under the conditions set forth by the U.S. Department of Education, an individual who acquires a drug conviction “while…receiving federal student aid” will most likely see his or her eligibility suspended and will become ineligible to receive aid for a period of time.  The convictions will be required to be disclosed when an applicant fills out his or her FAFSA forms. Depending on the nature of the conviction, the individual may be eligible for future reinstatement if certain conditions are met.
Receiving Sanctions from Your Educational Institution
A drug conviction may also lead an individual to lose his or her scholarship as well as receive potential sanctions from his or her educational institution. Many students receive scholarships and grants from their university. As with Federal Financial Aid, there are often strict conditions attached to the financial award afforded to the student. While these conditions are often tied to enrollment and grades, they can include conditions relating to any violations of school policies and/or laws. A drug conviction can result in forfeiture of the award. A student who is not receiving an award but receives a drug conviction may be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the institution’s code of conduct to which students are required to adhere.
Drug Convictions May Result in an Employee’s Termination
Drug convictions can cause an employee to lose his or her job. Employers are allowed to implement drug- and alcohol-abuse prevention policies as well as drug-free workplace policies. These policies, which vary from employer to employer, establish guidelines for how the employer will handle drug or alcohol related incidents in the workplace. There may exist grounds for termination an individual is in violation of these workplaces guidelines to which he or she has agreed to as an employee. In some instances, employers may have implemented conditions within their policies that could result in an individual’s termination if he or she receives a drug conviction outside of work.
Drug Convictions May Have Direct Immigration Consequences
An immigrant who receives a drug conviction may face disastrous immigration consequences. Under the United States immigration law, a drug conviction may render an immigrant inadmissible, ineligible for relief, or deportable;  in fact, deportation may in some instances be mandatory. The disastrous consequences relating to an immigrant’s drug convictions are applicable to not only visiting immigrants but also to any non-citizens, including legal permanent residents.
Contact an Experienced Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney as Soon as Possible
Receiving a drug conviction can have collateral consequences beyond the conviction itself. In addition to potential jail time and fines, a drug conviction on your criminal record can result in difficulty obtaining or maintaining employment, avoiding disqualification from federal loans and sanctions from an educational institution, or potentially disastrous immigration consequences. If you have been accused of a drug-related offense, your first call should be to a qualified Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer at The Zeiger Firm. We will build an aggressive defense against your charges and will ensure your rights are protected through every stage of your case. Call today at 215-546-0340 to find out more about how criminal defense lawyer Brain Zeiger can help you.