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Drug charges can leave students facing serious penalties

Criminal law and its enforcement does not stop at the boundary of a college campus. Drug offenses are one of the most potentially serious student crimes with long-term consequences.

Colleges are classified as drug-free school zones. Conviction of delivery or possession with intent to deliver within 1,000 feet of a college or university campus carries a minimum sentence of two years and a maximum of four years imprisonment. Selling drugs to a person under 18 adds another one year of incarceration.

Providing or selling drug-free urine to someone else so they can pass a drug test for employment or some other reason is a third-degree misdemeanor. This can lead to a prison term of up to 90 days and a $250 to $5,000 fine.

Administering drugs or intoxicants to another person that impairs their ability to deny a sexual advance, also known as date rape drugs, is a third-degree felony. Violators can face five years imprisonment and a fine up to $5,000 if they are convicted.

Selling any amounts of drugs, particularly to an undercover agent, is a drug trafficking offense. Sometimes this charge can be downgraded through a plea bargain. Prosecutors may insist on the accused individual's cooperation in a controlled buy as part of the deal. In this situation, a person makes a drug purchase under police surveillance so that police can arrest that person's supplier. This can be very dangerous.

Possession of cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamine or phencyclidine (PCP), Quaaludes, heroin, and Ecstasy carry different penalties. Marijuana possession is still punishable with fines and imprisonment, even though a first offense for possession over 30 grams may qualify for probation.

Bath Salts, drugs which are manufactured to imitate the effects of cocaine or heroin, have been classified as a Schedule I controlled substance since 2011. Their sale is punishable by five years imprisonment or a $15,000 fine, while possession can lead to up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Similar penalties also apply to crimes involving synthetic cannabis.

Students, like everyone else, possess constitutional rights. For example, a student can demand that law enforcement obtain a search warrant before entering a dorm room, apartment, or home. A criminal defense attorney can help protect these rights and represent students accused of these offenses.

Source: Shippensburg University Communication/Journalism Program, "The Law and U-A Pennsylvania college student's legal guide," accessed Feb. 9, 2018

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Haller & Imbarlina, P.C.
20120 Route 19, Suite 208
Gigliotti Plaza
Cranberry Township, PA 16066

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