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Students face serious penalties for drug offenses

College students charged with drug crimes can suffer consequences that can follow them their entire academic and professional lives. Massachusetts imposes criminal penalties for the use or possession of drugs or controlled substances, depending on the type of drug. Possession of drugs without proper authorization is illegal. Possession of a comparatively large quantity of drugs may be prosecuted as a distribution offense. Penalties for possession, manufacturing and distribution of drugs carry more sanctions after the first conviction. Many laws require mandatory sentences. Possessing and selling drug paraphernalia is also illegal.

Heroin offenses carry especially tough penalties. It is illegal to be in a place where heroin is kept and even in the company of a person possessing heroin, such as at a party or dorm room. Sharing drugs with individuals under 21 at a party, dormitory or anywhere else within 1,000 feet of a college has harsh penalties under federal law. These include a mandatory one-year prison sentence, while a third conviction can lead to life imprisonment.

College students do not receive preferential treatment. Students may be expelled from schools or dormitories. Courts do not lift prison sentences so that convicted students can complete college or go to work. Certain convictions also need to be listed on applications to graduate or professional schools and jobs. These can also prevent entry into many professions or employment fields and the loss of licenses needed to engage in certain professions.

Massachusetts and federal laws also allow for the seizure of private property, such as vehicles, used with or stemming from the proceeds of illegal drug activities. Monetary fines may also be imposed in some cases.

Massachusetts and federal laws prevent eligibility for federal student grants and loans for certain types of convictions. Convictions also disqualify a person from participation in federally-sponsored research grants and contracts.

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