Can Drug Charges Affect Financial Aid?

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Even as some drug use (mostly cannabis) becomes more acceptable in society at large, serious consequences still loom large for those convicted of a drug crime. Even if you avoid prison time, having a drug conviction on your record can inhibit your ability to make a better future for yourself.

This is true in many facets of life, including qualifying for financial aid and funding your education.

Pell Grants and Federal Loans

Even if you were convicted of this drug offence, you are not automatically ineligible to receive a Pell grant. There is, however, a period of ineligibility for federal Pell grants and student loans following a drug conviction. The length of ineligibility depends on the nature of the crime and whether this is the first offence:

Possession of Illegal Drugs

First Offense: 1 Year of Ineligibility
Second Offense: 2 Years of Ineligibility
Third Offense: Indefinite Ineligibility

Sale of Illegal Drugs

First Offense: 2 Years of Ineligibility
Second Offense: Indefinite Ineligibility

Applying for Financial Aid with a Past Drug Conviction

Supposing you are past the period of ineligibility associated with your conviction, you will once again be eligible for federal financial aid, but you still have to disclose your conviction. It will only get you into more trouble if you lie about it. FAFSA applications are checked against a national database of drug convictions.

Question 23 of the FAFSA asks whether you have any drug convictions in your past. This is the question that is most likely to get you disqualified for financial aid. Upon answering yes, you will be provided with a worksheet to determine your eligibility. If you are unsure how to answer this question, you can ask a financial aid officer at your prospective school for help.

Regaining Eligibility Early

It is possible to regain eligibility for financial aid early if you complete a rehabilitation program that meets certain requirements. The program has to qualify for government funding, be administered by a hospital, clinic, or medical professional, and have two random drug tests throughout the program.

Being Convicted of a Drug Offense After Submitting the FAFSA

The situation is a bit more complicated for students already receiving financial aid when you receive a conviction for a drug crime. After your conviction, you will have to pay back any federal financial aid you have received, even if you have already spent it. Not to mention, you will still remain ineligible for financial aid for the typical time period, which tends to be more disruptive after you already began your studies.

Education Tax Credits

The American Opportunity Tax Credit is a tax credit of up to $4,000, with $1,000 of it being refundable. The tax credit; it is meant to benefit middle-income families who do not qualify for Pell grants. Conviction of a felony drug offense permanently disqualifies one from this credit.

However, students and the parents of students with felony drug convictions can still claim the Lifetime Learning Credit; the credit is simply a bit smaller.

Institutional Aid

Even if you are ineligible for federal financial aid or loans, you might be eligible for merit or need-based aid from your college or university. That being said, many colleges have similar restrictions to the federal government when it comes to awarding need-based aid and recent drug convictions may make the student a less attractive candidate for merit scholarships.

What to Do If You’ve Been Accused

If you have been accused of any drug crime, call Robert A. Dodell, Attorney at Law, right now. Even a minor drug offense can loom over you years down the line. Having an Arizona lawyer experienced in criminal defense on your side will help you get through the process and secure a better future.

It’s always better to hire a drug charge defense lawyer as soon as you are aware you stand accused. Drug charges are investigated and prosecuted aggressively by law enforcement, who take these cases very seriously. You must take it seriously too, by hiring a lawyer like Robert A. Dodell, who will defend you and your rights.

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