Any kind of legal, academic or disciplinary issue can impact your teenager’s future. However, some issues have much more significant consequences than others. Skipping school a few times could impact your kids GPA and perhaps your trust in them, but those problems will likely resolve over time.

Getting convicted of a drug offense, on the other hand, could be a teenage mistake that changes the trajectory of your child’s life. Although any criminal offense has the potential to do damage to your child’s future, drug charges are particularly insidious because of how the federal government handles them.

Drug convictions cause a number of negative consequences

There are many considerations about juvenile drug offenses that have an impact on the life of an alleged offender. The potential for a criminal record, for example, could impact their ability to secure housing when they reach adulthood or a good job. Incarceration, especially when teenagers face charges as adults, can lead to post-traumatic stress and mental health issues related to their experiences while in prison.

Even if your child avoids incarceration and has the opportunity to expunge their record after a few years, the unfortunate reality is that a drug offense conviction will prevent them from receiving federal student aid.

Federal rules cut drug offenders off from student aid

With the cost of college on the rise, most students require substantial financial aid to secure funding for a degree. That means filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Ad (FAFSA) and seeking independent or school-sponsored scholarships.

One of the questions on the FAFSA asks whether a student has any felony convictions. Another asks specifically about drug offenses. Even misdemeanor drug offenses count.

Any kind of drug conviction that remains on your child’s record will prevent them from qualifying for federal student aid, such as grants, federally subsidized loans, federal work-study programs and other forms of financial aid. For the average student, that may permanently preclude them from attending college.

Take steps to help your child learn from this mistake

Teenagers are prone to make mistakes. They desire to test boundaries and establish themselves as individuals. The result may be poor decision-making and experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately for those who get caught, that experimentation can have life-long consequences.

If your child faces criminal charges related to drug use or possession, the best thing you can do is to help your child connect with adequate legal counsel and ensure that they receive treatment if their arrest was related to ongoing issues with abuse or addiction. Not only could treatment help your case in court, but it may help your teenager avoid future problems.

A lawyer can help you develop a defense strategy and minimize the impact of the charges on your child’s future. The more you know about your options, the better choices you can make.