What are the Consequences of a Drug Possession Charge?

Dan Cavallari

A drug possession charge often carries with it either a jail sentence or a fine, and very often a probationary period or community service requirement is given to the offender. The penalties for a drug possession charge will vary from place to place, but in general, some sort of penalty will be issued. The lasting effects of the drug possession charge can linger, however, making a job search and even making travel to another country more difficult. Many offenders find it difficult to find or keep a job after being charged with possession, and other implications may accompany drug charges.

Law enforcement officers are cracking down on both drug users and dealers.
Law enforcement officers are cracking down on both drug users and dealers.

Many employers now ask potential employees to list and describe any felonies or misdemeanors the candidate may have committed. While this alone is not always reason to discount the candidate from employment, it can make the candidate's job prospects much dimmer. Employers prefer to hire employees without a criminal record, so a drug possession charge can make the candidate's application less appealing to a potential employer. Depending on the circumstances of the drug possession charge, a current employer may also choose to terminate the employee, though the employer must be careful to do so lawfully. If the drug charges affected the business in any way — the employee missed a shift, for example, or was in possession of the drugs while at work — the employer has a reason and the right to fire the employee.

Drug possession with an intent to sell is a serious charge that could result in jail time.
Drug possession with an intent to sell is a serious charge that could result in jail time.

The more serious drug possession charge of possession with the intent to sell or distribute almost always carries a prison sentence with it. The sentence will vary depending on the judge hearing the case, but an offender can spend a year or more in prison due to possession with an intent to sell or distribute. More minor cases of drug possession may be handled by requiring the offender to attend a substance abuse program, which may last anywhere from several weeks to several years, depending on the severity of the charges and whether or not the offender has been charged for the first time, or if he is a repeat offender.

Other issues that may arise as a result of a drug possession charge include suspension or expulsion from school, especially if the offender is caught on campus with the drugs or if he has sold or intended to sell drugs on a school campus. A school may choose to suspend the student or expel the student, though other courses of action may also be taken depending on the severity of the crime.

Drug possession prison sentences vary on a case-by-case basis.
Drug possession prison sentences vary on a case-by-case basis.

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Discussion Comments


@clintflint - The thing is, drug possession might seem relatively harmless but when someone takes the wrong kind of drug they can easily end up hurting other people. I think it's a crime the same as driving under the influence is a crime, because you're taking a risk with the safety of those around you.


@irontoenail - It's a tricky situation though, because at some point you've got to take a stand on this kind of crime. You can't tell people it's illegal but not give them penalties for doing it. And a fine isn't really a good substitute because either they will be able to pay it and it won't make any difference or they won't be able to pay it and they'll just end up going to jail anyway.

Drug trafficking is the real crime and I think that is what should be cracked down on the most. I don't understand how so many drugs get brought into the country when there is so much infrastructure set up to stop them.


I wish they would completely revise the penalties for drug charges. I'm not a big fan of pot being considered a dangerous drug in the first place, but the fact that people can go to prison for any drug possession seems like a big mistake to me.

Selling drugs, particularly very addictive or dangerous ones, should be a crime. But just taking them shouldn't be treated so harshly. Putting people in prison over that just seems to make them into worse criminals. And once someone is at the point where they are addicted it's going to be difficult for them to get help if they fear being charged with a crime.

If the point is to prevent drug use, then I don't think this is the way to go about it.

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