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Why you need to take your teen's drug charges seriously

Teenagers tend to make mistakes. The teenage brain doesn't analyze the potential for risks and consequences as well as the adult brain. That can result in unnecessary risk-taking or just bad decisions.

Many teenagers experiment with drugs and alcohol without really considering it may affect their futures. No matter what you as a parent have said or how educated a teen is about the risks, there is still a distinct chance that experimentation will happen at some point. When it does, your teen is risking a lot, including the ability to go to college.

There are criminal consequences for drug possession and use, which could result in probation, court-ordered community service, incarceration, mandatory counseling and a criminal record. There are also social consequences for a drug conviction or a guilty plea to drug charges. A criminal record that includes drug offenses will make it difficult for your teenager to find a good job or even secure rental housing in many places.

A drug conviction can haunt your teen for years

Although some criminal records may be expunged in certain circumstances, it can be years before that happens. Also, if there are any additional criminal convictions in the meantime, the chances of having an earlier offense removed from the record decrease. Your teen could spend a lifetime branded as a drug offender.

With good social support, it's possible to overcome the issues with employment and housing that come from a criminal record. Sadly, for all but the most affluent, a drug conviction can preclude a college education.

Federal policy

Federal policy is very clear that those with drug convictions may no longer receive any federal student aid. Young people with drug convictions may be permanently cut off from grants and federally-backed loans or scholarships. Given that these are the most common forms of financial aid, the end result could be an inability to pay for college.

Even if your child is already enrolled in college, the student aid he or she currently receives may be terminated when the conviction becomes public record. As a parent, take steps to protect your child's future when it is threatened by a drug charge. Your teenager may not understand the long-lasting impact of this mistake, but you do.

Become an advocate for your child's future, and don't encourage a guilty plea. Instead, explore your options for fighting these charges.

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