College life can be really stressful. Not only is a student expected to handle an enormous educational load, he or she may be working and coping with the realities of life without parental supervision for the very first time. Experimentation with drugs and alcohol is common -- and so are drug charges.
Unfortunately, college students facing even small drug charges have some big reasons to worry. Here's what you should know.
A Drug Charge Usually Means a University Hearing as Well as Criminal Court
If you've been charged with a drug crime during your attendance at a college or university, you can expect the college to hit you while you're already down -- with a demand that you appear before a disciplinary hearing board.
While it might seem like the consequences of facing a disciplinary hearing aren't as serious as that of criminal court -- think again. Colleges and universities have their own rules. They aren't bound by the rights afforded defendants in criminal courts. That can be incredibly damaging to your ability to get past the charges without severe punishment.
While students are sometimes told the hearing is "informal," don't be fooled. The consequences of that hearing are decidedly not informal. Depending on how it goes, you can be summarily suspended or expelled entirely from school -- putting your entire future in jeopardy. If that happens, your financial losses can be considerable, because there are no refunds on tuition, room, and board, or other costs associated with your education.
You Put Yourself in Jeopardy by Testifying at a School Disciplinary Hearing
You probably know that you have the right to remain silent when you're being interrogated by the police -- and, hopefully, you took full advantage of that right when you were arrested.
However, that wisely-made choice could be totally undone if you testify without the advice of an attorney at your school's disciplinary hearing prior to the disposition of your charges in criminal court. Everything you say to the school officials could later be used against you in court if the police are present at your hearing. It is always to your advantage to delay the hearing until after your criminal case has been decided.
A Drug Conviction Can Ruin Your Ability to Continue at School
There are no federally-funded student loans or grants available for people with drug convictions -- even minor possession charges -- if you are convicted during a period of time when you are receiving financial aid. (If you are convicted of actual drug trafficking, it may not matter when you received the financial aid -- the judge can impose penalties that make it impossible to get federal student loans ever again.) Again, it may be to your advantage to try to delay your criminal hearing until the semester ends.
Because students have concerns unlike other drug crime defendants, it's wise to talk to a drug possession lawyer as quickly as possible about your situation.