How Drug Charges Can Impact Your Future in Seattle

How Drug Charges Can Impact Your Future in Seattle

Getting charged with a drug offense in Seattle can have a big impact on your life, even if its just a misdemeanor. With the new laws in Washington, its now a gross misdemeanor to possess or use drugs in public. That means you could face up to 364 days in jail and $5000 in fines if convicted. Here’s an overview of how drug charges could affect your future employment, housing, financial aid, and more.

Impact on Employment

Many employers do background checks before hiring, so even a misdemeanor drug conviction could show up. This could make it harder to get a job, especially in healthcare, education, government, and other fields. Employers might see drug charges as a red flag. According to Seattle defense lawyer Jim Smith, “We’ve seen clients lose job offers or even get fired once an employer learns about a drug conviction.”[1] The impact is usually worse if its a felony conviction.

There are a few things to know:

  • Charges alone won’t show up on a background check – only convictions.
  • After 5 years, convictions may not appear on basic background checks in Washington but could still be visible on more detailed checks.
  • Certain fields like nursing may require you to disclose any drug convictions.
  • Some jobs are completely off limits for people with drug felonies, like working in childcare.

So while a misdemeanor likely won’t ruin your career, it could limit options. Be prepared to explain the circumstances and show how you’ve moved forward positively. And for sensitive fields like healthcare, talk to a lawyer about options like getting the charge dismissed through drug court.

Impacts on Housing

In Seattle, landlords can’t automatically deny housing to someone with a criminal record. But they can still choose not to rent to someone with drug convictions if they think it could threaten safety or property.

According to Seattle tenants rights group Solid Ground, “We’ve absolutely seen cases where a misdemeanor drug charge led a landlord to deny an application. They’ll claim its about safety, but often there’s bias involved.”[2] Public housing and Section 8 vouchers may also be harder to get.

If you’re facing this issue, here are a few options:

  • Ask the court about vacating the conviction after completing probation.
  • Get letters of support from counselors, employers etc. showing rehabilitation.
  • Work with groups like Solid Ground to negotiate with landlords or find housing that doesn’t discriminate.

While its not fair, the reality is drug charges can impact access to housing. Connecting with support groups is key to overcoming barriers.

Impacts on Financial Aid

Under the Federal Student Aid (FSA) guidelines, students with drug convictions may lose access to federal grants, loans, and work-study assistance while in school. Possession charges can suspend aid for 1-2 years and sales convictions for 2+ years.[3]

Here’s how it works:

  • Aid is suspended for 1 year for drug possession convictions.
  • 2nd offense bumps suspension to 2 years.
  • 3rd offense means indefinite suspension until completing drug rehab.
  • Selling drugs triggers a 2 year suspension for 1st offense.

Losing financial aid can derail education plans. But federal guidelines do allow students to regain eligibility by completing an approved drug rehab program. For college students facing this issue, meet with your campus financial aid office asap to understand options and get back on track.

Other Legal Impacts

Drug charges can also lead to other legal issues like suspended driver’s licenses and problems traveling internationally. For example, Canada may deny entry if someone has a drug conviction, even a misdemeanor. And a new drug conviction while on probation could lead to jail time.

Facing a drug charge? Consult with a criminal defense lawyer right away. An experienced attorney can help negotiate reduced charges or diversion programs to minimize impacts on your future. Don’t wait – the sooner you take action, the better.

Support for Moving Forward

If you’re struggling with drug dependency, the most important thing is getting support. Seattle has great options like drug court and diversion programs focused on treatment over punishment. Counseling, recovery groups, medication-assisted treatment and sober housing can also help establish stability.

It won’t be easy, but taking steps to overcome addiction and build a healthier life will pay off. Stay focused on your goals and don’t let past mistakes define you. Surround yourself with positive people who will lift you up. Small daily progress adds up over time. You’ve got this!