The answer is Yes. A college student facing drug charges in Massachusetts or elsewhere risks losing their opportunity to receive federal financial aid if the outcome in the criminal case results in a conviction.
FAFSA Drug Conviction Policy
All student financial need is assessed through the federal Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA). The Department of Education sanctions college students who have been convicted of a drug crime while receiving federal funds. (*Students may also lose state grants and scholarships for criminal convictions).
If you are convicted for possessing illegal drugs while receiving a federally secured student loan, grant or work study program, your financial aid will be suspended for one year from the date of conviction.
A conviction for selling illegal drugs will result in a two year suspension of your federal student aid. If you receive two convictions for the sale of illegal drugs while receiving federal student aid, you will lose those funds indefinitely.
You may be able to shorten the suspension period by completing a federally approved drug rehabilitation program. For specific information, refer to the Eligibility Worksheet for FAFSA Question 23 here.
Related Q&A: Is paraphernalia a drug charge?
Drug convictions do not normally include paraphernalia under the student aid law. Paraphernalia crimes are usually included as a separate count related to the main charge of distributing, selling or possessing a controlled substance.
What is a drug conviction?
Under the federal student aid laws, a drug conviction is a plea or finding of guilty in a federal or state court of law for selling or possessing an illegal drug. Illegal drugs are defined in the federal controlled substance code, which still includes cannabis.
You do not have to include a drug conviction that was:
- Set aside or placed on file by the court
- Reversed by the court
- Removed / expunged from your record, or that
- Occurred when you were under 18, unless you were tried as an adult.
A defense attorney in Massachusetts can answer questions about your specific case, including whether a drug-related offense is potentially disqualifying.
Related Q&A: Can you have your criminal record expunged?
Massachusetts does not allow individuals to petition for removal (expungement) of a criminal record. However, a drug conviction can be sealed, which limits who has access to the record. If you are facing federal drug charges and are found guilty, a conviction cannot normally be expunged; but it may be possible to remove a first-time drug conviction if you are under 21.
Defending Against Drug Charges in Massachusetts
A drug offense carries the possibility of serious jail time if convicted and can derail future plans in unforeseen ways. Ineligibility for federal student aid is among the harsh consequences for many young adults facing these charges.
If you need help defending against prosecution of a drug charge in Massachusetts, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. Ensure you are talking with a drug crimes lawyer who understands how police use circumstantial evidence in these kinds of cases. I offer a free consultation that you can schedule by calling my law office today: 978-452-1116.