Possession of Drugs - Possible impacts on your driver's license, your student aid, or professional license

Many of the clients I represent on DUI cases are also charged with possessing some form of drug, usually marijuana or pills that they got from someone else (Adderall, Xanax, etc.).  In addition to consequences from the DUI charge, they face problems related to possessing a drug that is either an "illegal" (Schedule I) drug or a drug that they do not have a valid prescription for.

While the penalties for possessing a drug are generally minimal (probation, usually), there are other major impacts that a guilty plea can have for those charges: license suspension, loss of financial aid, impacts on professional licenses (like nursing licenses), and more.

Let's say you are a 20 year-old college student who gets charged with a drug DUI for marijuana and the police find a bag of marijuana in your car after they search the car following your arrest.  You are charged with:

  • DUI
  • some sort of Vehicle Code violation
  • possession of a small amount of marijuana

Everyone knows that a DUI involves a license suspension. What they might not realize is that a conviction for a small amount o marijuana (or other illegally possessed drug) will cause a license suspension.

If you were to simply plead guilty to the charges listed above and if you had no prior criminal record, you would get suspended for 12 months for the DUI and 6 months for possessing the marijuana. That is obviously a terrible option when a program like ARD is available, but perhaps you are not eligible for ARD (someone was injured badly in an accident during the DUI, for instance).

Guilty pleas for charges involving the possession of drugs cause driver's license suspensions: 6 months for the first conviction, and 12 months for the second and subsequent.

In addition, if you are getting federally-subsidized financial aid for college, you could lose that aid after pleading guilty to a drug charge. There is a worksheet that you must complete to determine if you could remain eligible for financial aid. You can find that here.  I can help you to minimize that impact, or possibly avoid it completely.

Drug and DUI convictions can cause problems with professional licenses (like nursing licenses, for instance), pilot licenses, immigration status, and more. These do not operate through a sentence from a judge in criminal court.  A judge sentencing you in criminal court will not say "As part of the sentence I am giving you, I suspend your right to get student financial aid."

What actually happens is that the conviction triggers a block on your financial aid through federal regulations and law.  Once you have the drug conviction on your criminal record, that is what causes the problem.  In other words, we can't get the judge to say at sentencing, "I don't want Mr. Smith to be blocked from getting financial aid or losing his license for possessing drugs."  The judge does not have that power.

Another important thing to remember is that neither the judges you will see in criminal court nor the prosecutors will tell you about the impacts that a drug conviction can have aspects of your life outside of the simple, basic criminal court ones: your sentence, costs, fines, etc.

I can educate you about what consequences you face (these are called "collateral consequences") and then help you choose between different options to deal with drug possession consequences, whether those are to litigate (fight) the charges, apply for ARD, negotiate a favorable plea, or try for a Section 17 disposition.

Criminal court has been getting more and more complicated as legislatures continue to try social engineering (taking driver's licenses to penalize drug use, for instance) to increase penalties for politically unpopular crimes. 

Call me at (717) 848-8455 to set up your free, in-office initial consultation.

We can talk about what the real stakes in your case are - not just criminal court sentences - and come up with a plan that is a good one for you and your circumstances. I look forward to hearing from you.