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Convictions for drug crimes have both direct and collateral consequences. Direct consequences are imposed by the court in which you are convicted. Punishments are direct consequences of a conviction. They can also include other obligations imposed by the court, including payment of court costs or restitution.
Collateral Consequences of a Conviction
Collateral consequences are not imposed by the court at the time of conviction. They usually result from statutes that deny certain rights, benefits, or opportunities to someone who has been convicted of a crime. A large number of federal and state laws create collateral consequences for convictions of drug crimes.
Since they are not direct consequences of a conviction, the court does not need to warn a defendant about them before the defendant enters a plea of guilty or no contest. You should nevertheless be aware of them because they might have a significant impact upon your life and upon your decision whether to plead guilty.
Each state has its own laws imposing consequences for drug convictions. They are too numerous to list here and they are subject to constant change. Since these consequences are deemed “collateral” to a conviction, courts are usually not required to warn defendants about them before a conviction is imposed.
In addition to consequences that pertain to federal benefits, military enlistment, and immigration, the consequences of a drug conviction may include the following:
Conviction of a felony involving controlled substances prevents an individual from purchasing or possessing firearms and ammunition.
Drug convictions lead to a suspension or revocation of driving privileges under the laws of many states. Insurance companies in many states are permitted to charge higher premiums as the result of a drug conviction.
Eligibility for State Employment
Many state jobs or positions that are funded by states are unavailable to individuals who have drug convictions.
Eligibility to Provide Foster Care Services
Many states will not permit individuals convicted of a drug crime to serve as foster parents.
Eligibility to Volunteer at a Youth Camp
Some states forbid individuals with drug convictions from working at a youth camp.
Professional License Eligibility
Many states prohibit the issuance of professional licenses, permanently or for a period of time, to individuals convicted of certain drug crimes. Licenses that are commonly affected include:
- Operation of an assisted living facility
- Operation of a day care facility
- Licensing as a health care provider or counselor
- Teacher licenses or certifications
- Providing home health care services
- School bus driver
- Body piercing license
- Bartender’s license
State Contracts and Benefits
A drug conviction may render an individual ineligible to participate in certain state contracts. For instance, a convicted individual may become ineligible to be a vendor of products to the state or to work as a security guard providing security services to state buildings. A drug conviction may also render an individual ineligible for benefits provided by a state, including subsidized housing, state-funded loans, educational grants, and public assistance.
Texas Laws Regarding Drug Convictions
Texas laws provide for a number of consequences as the result of a drug conviction. The consequences may vary depending upon the nature of the conviction. The most commonly encountered consequences are:
- Driver’s license suspension. A conviction of most drug crimes results in a 180 day suspension of an adult defendant’s driver’s license. A commercial driver’s license may be suspended for life if a drug felony involved the use of a motor vehicle to facilitate the crime.
- Voting. A person with a felony conviction cannot vote in a Texas public election.
- Concealed carry permit. A misdemeanor drug conviction may prevent the defendant from obtaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon for a period of five years. Federal law prohibits anyone with a felony conviction from possessing a firearm.
- Expulsion from school for committing certain drug offenses, or for being under the influence of marijuana or any other controlled substance, within 300 feet of a school.
- Suspension or revocation of, or disqualification for, most professional licenses.
- Denial of permit to sell alcoholic beverages (applies to felony convictions of either the applicant or the applicant’s spouse.)
- Disqualification from jury service (applies to felony convictions.)
- Disqualification from holding public office (applies to felony convictions.)