What Are the Collateral Consequences of a Pennsylvania Drug Conviction?
A drug conviction can result in significant immediate legal penalties as well as consequences that may not materialize for months or even years. The immediate consequences of a drug conviction often include a term of imprisonment, hefty fines, and a criminal record that can follow you for the rest of your life. The long-term consequences of a drug conviction – also known as collateral consequences – often include a negative impact on your ability to find employment, take out federal loans, attend school, locate housing, and other potential issues.
If you’re facing drug-related charges in Philadelphia, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney like Lauren A. Wimmer to protect your rights. Hiring an experienced drug defense attorney can increase the chances that your case will be resolved as favorably as possible.
Immediate Penalties for a Drug Conviction in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania takes drug offenses seriously and imposes strict consequences on those convicted of drug-related crimes. Penalties for drug convictions differ depending on several factors, some of which include the drug involved and its schedule, the volume of drugs involved, whether minors were involved, and whether firearms were involved. For example, convictions involving cocaine, meth, or marijuana in excess of 1,000 pounds can result in 10 years in prison and fines up to $100,000. Convictions involving schedule IV drugs, like Xanax or Valium, can result in 3 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.
Collateral consequences can be defined as restrictions that limit or prohibit individuals convicted of certain crimes from holding certain benefits, rights, or opportunities. Felony convictions in Pennsylvania carry many collateral consequences. Some areas where you may experience the collateral consequences of a drug conviction include:
- Professional licensing
- Child custody
- The ability to possess firearms
Some of the collateral consequences are automatic and mandatory, no matter what felony you are convicted of. This means that you must be prohibited from receiving certain benefits or having certain rights and opportunities. However, some collateral consequences are discretionary or specific to certain crimes. For example, when it comes to professional licensing, you must be denied certain licenses for any drug convictions for a certain number of years prior to applying, and you may be denied a license for any other felony convictions.
When you have been convicted of a drug-related crime, even for a first offense, job prospects and employment options can be severely limited. In Pennsylvania, employers can consider felony and misdemeanor convictions when deciding whether to employ you. Additionally, they can consider convictions that affect your suitability for employment in the position.
If you apply for housing as a renter, the landlord will likely perform a criminal background check. If the landlord finds a criminal record, he or she can deny your application. When it comes to private housing, those landlords have discretion when it comes to denying applicants. Additionally, even the Philadelphia Housing Authority can deny public housing to an individual who has been convicted of a drug-related crime.
If you need student aid to attend a college or university, a state or federal drug conviction can disqualify you from receiving student loans. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FASFA, will ask whether you have had any drug-related convictions, and upon answer “yes,” you will be required to explain further to determine eligibility.
A drug possession conviction results in one year of aid ineligibility from the date of your conviction. If you are convicted a second time, you are ineligible for aid for two years. A third conviction results in indefinite ineligibility. If you are convicted of selling or distributing drugs, you are ineligible to receive federal student aid for two years. Any subsequent offense results in indefinite eligibility.
Importantly, colleges and universities may also use drug convictions as a basis for admission decisions.
Drug-related convictions can affect your ability to obtain a professional license, potentially leading to a waste of all the time, effort, and money you put into your education and licensing exams. Additionally, the inability to obtain a license can impact your ability to earn a living in the future.
Common licenses that can be refused for drug convictions include:
- Physicians, Dentists, and Chiropractors: your license must be refused for any felony drug-related conviction in the 10 years prior to applying for your licenses. Additionally, your license may be refused for any drug-related felony or misdemeanor conviction.
- Pharmacists: your license may be refused for any drug-related felony conviction.
- Nurses: like physicians, your license must be refused for any drug-related felony conviction in the 10 years prior to your application. Additionally, your license may be refused for any other felony conviction.
- Physician’s Assistant: your license may be refused for any felony conviction.
When a court is deciding child custody arrangements, it will always determine what is in the best interest of the child. Some criminal convictions are determined to be more of a threat to the wellbeing of a child, and Pennsylvania law identifies specific crimes that must be considered by a family court. A conviction of manufacturing, selling, delivering, holding, or possessing a controlled substance or other drug or device requires a judge to decide if the parent poses a threat of harm to the child before awarding custody to any parent or guardian.
Pennsylvania law allows individuals to carry a firearm openly without a license and, upon obtaining a valid license, to carry a concealed weapon. However, these rights are impacted if you’ve been convicted of any drug offense. Conviction of a drug-related crime means that you cannot purchase or possess a firearm in the State of Pennsylvania. Even minor drug-related misdemeanors will prevent your ability to hold a concealed carry license or result in its revocation.
Have You Been Arrested for a Drug-Related Crime?
The list above only discusses some of the collateral consequences you face when convicted of a drug-related crime. Additionally, a conviction could mean anywhere from a few months to several years in jail and fines that can reach up to $100,000. Don’t let an arrest for drug-related crimes allow you to lose your opportunities and rights. Contact attorney Lauren A. Wimmer for help in fighting your charges. Schedule your free consultation by calling Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 or visiting our contact page today.