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Drug Convictions And Student Aid

In addition to the mandatory driver's license suspension that must be imposed for a drug conviction in Ohio, Defendants, especially ones enrolled in or considering applying to college, must also be aware of the ramifications of a drug conviction on their student aid. The FAFSA application specifically asks, "Have you been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid (such as grants, loans or work-study)?" Thus, even a conviction for a minor misdemeanor possession of marijuana can have major ramifications for financial aid.

An applicant loses eligibility for federal financial aid for one year for the first conviction and then risks further periods of ineligibility for subsequent offenses. Applicants may regain aid eligibility early if they complete a qualified drug rehabilitation program. This program has to meet certain requirements, one of which is the passing of at least two unannounced drug tests. While an applicant may be able to regain eligibility earlier than one year, the possibility of having to take time off from school, even a short period, is a harsh consequence. 

One way to avoid this headache altogether is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to litigate the case and potentially secure a plea deal to avoid not only the FAFSA consequences but also the mandatory license suspension. A plea, for example, to an amended charge of disorderly conduct would successfully avoid both the financial aid and license suspension issues. Some prosecutors may also be willing to offer defendants the opportunity to proceed through a diversion program, of which successful completion would result in a dismissal and no license suspension or FAFSA issue. In either instance, the offender may be required to complete a drug and alcohol assessment and comply with any recommended after care.

These are just two potential alternatives that would successfully avoid two of the collateral consequences that stem from a drug conviction. If you have been charged with a drug offense please feel free to contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Rittgers & Rittgers for a free consultation. 

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