Hayes, Williams, Turner & Daughtry, P.A.

Think twice before you accept a plea deal on a drug charge

There's no such thing as a "minor" drug charge. No matter what anyone tells you to the contrary, all drug charges have the potential for long-term consequences.

A lot of defendants charged with misdemeanor drug charges like possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia are eager to put the whole ordeal behind them. Once they find out that the prosecutor is willing to offer them a lenient sentence -- usually without jail time -- they're happy to take a plea bargain.

That may not be a good idea. There can be a lot of unexpected repercussions from a drug conviction, including:

1. You may lose your job.

A drug conviction can -- and does -- lead to job loss in many professions. If you work as a teacher, coach, nurse, health aide or something similar, your employer may decide that you are a potential liability. Parents, patients and clients are often reluctant to trust someone with a drug conviction.

2. You may have a hard time finding a new job.

Today, most employers run background checks on all their applicants. They want to avoid accusations of negligence in regard to customer or client safety. Many employers won't even bother interviewing a job candidate with a criminal record that involves drug use. They may worry that a criminal record indicates that someone is an addict with a serious problem.

3. Finding a place to live might also be difficult.

It's increasingly common for landlords to run background checks on prospective tenants. A criminal record involving a drug charge can make landlords worry that someone may bring around an unsavory crowd that will disturb other tenants or result in involvement with law enforcement.

4. It could affect your personal life.

Finally, a drug conviction can also affect your ability to find or maintain a relationship with someone. Potential partners may be leary that you have a serious drug problem -- or simply not want to share the burden of your record as they try to build a future.

Plea bargains may be good deals for the prosecutors involved -- but not always for defendants. A criminal defense attorney can often help you avoid a conviction that will haunt you far into the future.

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