It is common knowledge that a conviction for a drug offense – even simple possession of marijuana – carries some type of penalty that limits freedom, such as incarceration or probation. However, a conviction for a drug offense may carry other lesser known penalties, some of which carry lifetime bans. Consider the following limitations placed on defendants with drug convictions:
Even a simple possession of marijuana charge from your youthful years could affect any future international travel plans. Certain countries – including many Asian counties and Canada – treat drug and DUI convictions very seriously. In some cases, you will not be allowed to obtain a visa to enter. Even if you can obtain a visa and you try to enter one of these countries, you may be detained and deported. In other cases, your travel insurance may not cover such interruption due to a prior drug conviction.
Although unlikely, certain drug convictions can carry a civil penalty of up to $250,000! Some fines may be doubled depending on certain aggravating factors of your case. You will be on the hook to pay off all fines and costs associated with your case. Money made from the sale of drugs will be confiscated and forfeited, so you won’t be able to use those funds to pay. Failure to pay could mean violation of the terms of your probation or parole. If your probation or parole expires and there are still fines and costs associated with your case, the balance may go to collections, thereby affecting your credit score.
Some of the biggest nuisance categories for employment opportunities are alcohol, drug and sex-offense convictions. Depending on the type of job or license you wish to seek, you may be barred from consideration for a period of three years, five years or even permanently. Certain industries, such as banking and transportation, which are regulated by federal law, may prevent employment opportunities for drug convicts. In rare but serious circumstances, a person already employed who pleads guilty to a drug offense must be let go. In other particular categories, such as law enforcement or teaching, even after a time-barred period expires you may still have to prove rehabilitation in order to qualify. In addition, each branch of the military carries its own code regarding drug convictions, and the odds are always against convicted drug offenders.
Alcohol and traffic offenses are not the only category of crimes that may suspend your license for up to a year. Most drug-related convictions carry some sort of license suspension. If caught driving while suspended, you may face a violation of any probation or parole and be subject to another one year suspension. Multiple driving while suspended tickets can deem a defendant a “repeat offender” and result in imprisonment of up to thirty (30) days.
Public Civil Service and Rights:
In Pennsylvania, if you are convicted of a felony drug offense, you will lose the right to own a firearm. There are severe penalties for felons unlawfully possessing firearms. You will also lose the right to vote while incarcerated and permanently lose the right to sit on a jury or hold public office. While many people would rather not sit on a jury or vote/run for office, it is still a constitutional right you will forfeit upon a felony drug conviction. The only remedy is through a pardon.
Federal Benefits and Programs:
A drug conviction also affects everyday eligibility for federal benefits. Certain benefits, such as student loans, Temporary Assistant to Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and public housing, carry mandatory rules where a person convicted of a drug offense is ineligible for a period of years, or until successful rehabilitation has been proven. In rare cases with repeat offenders, a person may be permanently banned.
As shown above, drug convictions are very serious, and can affect even minimal aspects of life. It is very important to speak to an attorney before pleading guilty to any offense.