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Criminal Law Blog

How a Drug Possession—Even a Misdemeanor—Can Change Your Life

April 27, 2018

When you think of punishment for any crime, the first thing that comes to mind is probably jailtime. There are, however, many other potential consequences that come with convictions, and some can be life-lasting. If you have gotten charged with drug possession, your primary concern is probably to stay out of jail, but you should look beyond this immediate consequence. If you have drug charges on your record, every aspect of your life could be impacted, from your job to your housing opportunities to your child custody. Furthermore, it is not easy to have drug charges expunged from your record, especially in the tough-on-crime state of Arizona, which has some of the harsher penalties for small-time drug offenders in the United States.

If you have been arrested for drug possession, your first step should be to call a Tucson lawyer with experience in defending drug charges. Not only will your lawyer help you stay out of jail, but she can help you recognize and possibly avoid some of the more lasting effects of drug possession charges. To gain a better understanding of the importance of good legal representation, keep reading for a look at the many ways a drug conviction can impact your life.

How a Conviction Will Affect Your:
You do not have to spend time in jail to be considered a common criminal. In many cases, there is little distinction between a misdemeanor and a felony when it comes to your employment opportunities, access to housing, and reputation within the community. That’s why it is so important to have a lawyer who understands the potential consequences of drug possession. The right attorney will fight to have charges dropped if possible, or at least reduced to the lowest possible conviction to minimize the impact on the following areas:

  • Employment Opportunities – Equal employment opportunities do not extend to those convicted of crimes, even if the crimes were non-violent, non-felonies, such as misdemeanor drug possession. Some jobs, such as those in the transportation industry and government positions requiring security clearance, can be completely out of reach if you have even one drug related charge on your record. And many other jobs will require background checks, which can be much more complicated and put you out of the running for a job you’re otherwise qualified for because of one past mistake.
  • Housing and Loan Access – When you rent a house or apply for a home loan, your credit history isn’t the only part of your background taken into account. You may be denied for a housing application because of drug charges, even if the charge took place years before.
  • Child Custody – Individuals who chronically abuse drugs may not be fit for parenthood, but getting caught with marijuana in college should not disqualify you from keeping custody of your children much later in life. Unfortunately, drug charges follow you around for life, and they can weigh into custody decisions, even without any continued history of drug use. A drug possession charge can also limit your ability to work with children professionally as a teacher, bus driver, or child care provider.
  • Education – Federal student aid and private student loans can be denied due to drug charges, which can make it harder to access higher education that will propel your career opportunities. In addition, your application to a college or university may be denied because of past drug possession charges.
  • Community Reputation – If you are charged with drug possession, it may not take long for word to spread to your neighbors, friends, and coworkers. This can alter your reputation within your community and make it more difficult to take part in local events and activities.

Because drug possession can have such far reaching impacts on an individual’s life, one conviction can drive some individuals down a path of continued crime, because it is so difficult to get a job, find a place to live, and fit in within a community. Drug crimes are especially challenging in this regard, because many are charged on the federal level, and even those that are not have fewer avenues for possible expungement than other crimes. That means that even after paying all fines and penalties and taking any diversion courses or completing community service, you still cannot remove a charge from your record.

How Drug Possession Laws Have Changed
With many states choosing to legalize recreational marijuana, you might think that drug possession is not as big a deal as it used to be. You must remember, however, that recreational marijuana is not legal in the state of Arizona, so you should not cross the border with legally purchased cannabis from neighboring states where it was recently made legal, such as California and Nevada. Even medical marijuana users in Arizona may be more cautious, as Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, announced his intention to rescind the Cole Memo, which stated that federal authorities would not interfere with state legalization action for marijuana sales and use. Though this most immediately affects recreational marijuana, medical marijuana policies could soon be affected as well. In the current political climate, it is also more likely that other drug convictions will become more frequent, as lower level offenders tend to be more highly targeted as example cases in periods of tighter drug regulations.

Why Drug Possession Is a Big Deal in Arizona
There are differing views on drug possession and drug use throughout the United States, and in some states, getting caught with illegal drugs is not a big deal. This is not the case in Arizona, where there is a strong pursuit of drug crimes of all levels, largely driven by the close proximity to the Mexican border as well as an anti-drug climate among state lawmakers and prosecutors.

When you are facing drug possession charges in Tucson, Janet Altschuler, Attorney at Law can help you minimize the impact these charges could have on your future. Ms. Altschuler is solely dedicated to criminal defense in her practice, so you can rest assured that she has the expertise necessary to defend your rights.

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