Most college students have a lot of on their plate: keeping up with schoolwork, often working a part-time job and participating in all the fun activities that surround college life. However, with much more freedom than they had in high school, they may not always make the best choices when it comes to drinking alcohol or experimenting with drugs.

For parents, that’s always concerning, but especially if they end up facing drug charges, which may have a broader impact than expected.

Drug charges in Pennsylvania

First, college students should be aware that marijuana possession outside of medical marijuana is still illegal in Pennsylvania. Possession of 30 grams or less can lead to a misdemeanor charge with a $500 fine and possible 30-day jail sentence. Possession of controlled substances, such as heroin, cocaine, LSD, Ecstasy, meth or prescription drugs, can lead to a one-year prison term and a $5,000 fine for a first offense.

Financial aid eligibility

Also, if students are convicted of possessing illegal drugs while receiving federal student aid, they will have their financial aid suspended. Typically, students lose eligibility for financial aid for one year for a first-time drug offense. They only can have it reinstated earlier by successfully completing a qualified drug rehabilitation program or passing two unannounced drug tests.

However, students are still eligible for financial aid if their drug conviction happened when they were a minor. They also are still eligible if they were convicted of a drug charge when they weren’t enrolled in college or receiving financial aid—for instance, perhaps during the summer before college.

Students caught selling illegal drugs face longer financial aid suspensions. For a first-time offense, it’s a two-year financial aid suspension. For a second-time drug selling offense, students can lose financial aid indefinitely.

If your child faces a drug possession charge or charges of selling illegal drugs, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. There may be circumstances where an attorney can help get the charges against your child reduced or dismissed. That way they will be able to focus fully on their college studies again.