Essential Student Aid
For many students, federal financial aid is an indispensable source of support that helps them get through school. Without financial aid, many students do not have the option to go to college. Federal financial aid is indeed a valuable privilege, but students can lose that privilege. Unfortunately, certain criminal charges can affect a student's financial aid eligibility. Specifically, certain drug offenses can render a student ineligible for certain types of federal financial aid for a specified period of time.
If you are a student facing drug charges, don't panic quite yet. Facing drug charges alone won't be enough to limit your financial aid eligibility. You must be convicted of a drug offense, such as possession or sale of a controlled substance, for your eligibility to be affected. And just because you have a drug offense conviction doesn't mean you can't get any aid at all. Your eligibility will depend mainly on whether you were receiving federal financial aid at the time of your conviction.
When You Were Convicted Matters
Your financial aid eligibility may be suspended for a specified period of time if you are convicted of a drug offense while receiving federal student financial aid such as loans, grants, or work-study. If you were convicted of a drug offense after you submitted your FAFSA, you may be obligated to pay back any aid you received while your eligibility was suspended. If you were convicted of a drug offense but you were not receiving aid at the time of the conviction, your eligibility will not be restricted.
If you were convicted of a drug offense while receiving financial aid, you may be able to regain eligibility if you complete certain steps. You can restore your eligibility early if you complete an approved drug rehabilitation program or pass two random drug tests administered by an approved drug rehabilitation program facility. Doing so would allow you to get financial aid for the current award year you are in. Sexual offenses involving involuntary civil commitment can also affect your financial aid eligibility. And your financial aid options are limited when you are incarcerated or otherwise in an institution.
These rules and restrictions only apply to students seeking federal financial aid. Institution or community-based aid, such as scholarships, may not be affected by a criminal conviction. Check with your school or the organizations you receive aid from to see if a conviction can affect your eligibility. Some do not take into consideration a student's criminal past. But others consider a student's moral merits, which a conviction could affect.
Even if you are convicted, getting the conviction dismissed through the process of expungement can reinstate your aid eligibility before the suspension period ends. To get a conviction dismissed, you need to petition the court. If your conviction is dismissed, your original case will be opened, the plea or verdict will be changed to not guilty, and the entry will note the conviction was dismissed in the interests of justice. You have a right to petition for a dismissal if you fulfill all the requirements of your sentence and complete probation or petition to have your probation period ended early. This process can be complicated, however, and there is no guarantee the court will approve your petition. Having an attorney assist you with the expungement process can increase your chances of success.
Speak with an attorney about your options if you are seeking financial aid and are facing or have been convicted of a drug charge. If you depend on student financial aid for your school costs, you may want to fight your charges. If you have already been convicted, you will want to do what it takes to have your financial aid eligibility reinstated as soon as possible. An attorney can help you decide what steps to take to protect your eligibility for financial aid given your specific circumstances.
Do you have questions about drug charges? Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens can assist you with fighting your charges. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has taken over 50 to trial. Attorney Christopher Martens has the skills and knowledge needed to defend your rights. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.