It was just a little bit. Not enough to really notice. But the police did. Now you’ve got some drug charges.
From applying for a job or college, renting an apartment or a house, one drug charge can stop you from doing all these things most people do every day.
North Carolina has not legalized marijuana, and still considers it a crime.
A “small amount,” less than a half-ounce, is called “simple possession of marijuana.” A Class 3 misdemeanor, you’ll pay a $200 fine, but probably not have jail time for your first offense. Higher amounts, up to 1.5 ounces, are a Class 1 misdemeanor, with up to 45 days in jail (or probation, if your attorney successfully argues for it.) If you have more than 1.5 ounces, up to 10 pounds, it’s a felony with jail time up to 12 months.
Schedule I and II Drug Charges
Controlled substances like cocaine, ecstasy, heroin and others carry felony charges, harsher penalties and higher jail sentences. Any amount in your possession will result in an automatic arrest with fines and jail terms. Drug trafficking and “maintaining a dwelling” (any facility used for warehousing and distribution) are also felonies with jail time.
If you are asked by a prospective employer, either in person, or on a job application, if you’ve ever been arrested, of course, you must say “yes” (unless you’ve had a legal expunction.) Background checks are cheap and easy to get, so most employers get them when you apply. Arrests and convictions show up immediately.
If you’re not asked in the application, you may be asked in an interview. Obviously, you must answer “yes,” or they will find out during the background check. Once they discover you’ve been arrested for drugs, they may decide not to continue talking to you, and you’ll have a harder time finding a job.
Employers want to hire people they can trust. Drug charges can severely limit your choice of vocations, even for a misdemeanor. Law enforcement, nursing, working with children (such as daycare or teaching) and any job requiring a CDL will not accept a candidate with a past history of drug arrests. You may also be turned down for active duty military service or the National Guard.
Mortgages and other loans
In many cases, drug charges cause immediate denial of credit for many kinds of loans. Lenders want to know that the loan will be repaid on time. As a convicted criminal, you will be considered a “high risk.” Mortgages, student loans, car loans, credit cards, and other types of lending will be unavailable (or only at a very high rate of interest.)
Many landlords run credit and criminal background checks to potential tenants. Again, background checks are cheap and easy to get, so it wouldn’t take long for a landlord to discover your arrest. Most are looking for stable individuals who will pay rent on time and keep the property in reasonably good condition. Drug charges in your past will make any landlord anxious about renting to you, as well as your activities and ability to pay rent in a timely fashion.
Are you considering going to college?
While you may be able to get financial aid, you will be severely limited. Your financial aid may be suspended if your drug conviction happened while you were receiving aid. You’ll be asked to fill out a worksheet to determine your continued eligibility. You may re-apply after completing a drug treatment program.
Drug trafficking and “maintaining a dwelling” can disqualify you completely from student financial aid.
If you’re also applying to law or medical school, you must also disclose the arrest on your admissions application. Drug charges may result in denial of your application.
If you’re involved in a difficult child custody battle with an ex, drug charges may cause a judge to reconsider your custody rights, even if an arrest did not lead to a conviction. Your drug arrest can be used as another reason to deny your parental rights, and possibly keep you from seeing your children. You may also be prohibited from adopting children.
Once you are convicted, you can lose your home, your car, as well as cash. North Carolina requires a conviction for criminal asset forfeiture. The state requires proceeds from criminal asset forfeiture to fund the public school systems.
Even A Misdemeanor Can Have Long-Term Consequences
Drug charges have the potential to cause problems for the rest of your life, whether they’re major or minor. Even though a misdemeanor is a “small thing” in the courts, it’s a very large red flag to anyone who is considering you for employment, as a tenant, or any number of other positions.
First-Time Charge Expunction
North Carolina allows some first-time offenders convicted of simple possession of marijuana to complete drug education training and/or community service to have their drug charge dismissed. Called a “conditional discharge,” you will be required to comply with a number of conditions.
Your attorney can later request an expunction after successful completion. A minor drug charge can be wiped from your record, won’t appear in a background check, and you can legally answer “no” when asked about criminal charges. You can only do this once, and subsequent charges and arrests may lead to jail time.
Dewey P. Brinkley Will Defend You Against Drug Charges
A criminal defense attorney experienced in drug cases can defend you in court and protect your assets. Contact our Raleigh law office today at (919) 832-0307 for a free consultation. Dewey P. Brinkley is a former Wake County prosecutor who will make sure your rights are rights are respected and you receive a fair trial under the law.