Misdemeanor citations for possession and paraphernalia in Ohio and FAFSA

Question: The tickets have boxes that are checked “Violation of Ordinance of 138.02 (e)(3)” and not “Ohio Revised Code.” I am summoned to a Mayor’s Court also, instead of the local municipal court. My question i whether or not a conviction for this will be a criminal offense. More specifically, I receive Federal Student Aid and do not want this to affect my eligibility. I was talking to someone and he said that an ordinance violation like this is not criminal, and does not show up as a “state conviction.” Any advice?

Answer: You were charged under the municipal (city) code, not the Ohio Revised Code. Luckily, Ohio recently changed marijuana paraphernalia to be a minor misdemeanor rather than a fourth degree misdemeanor, which is a criminal offense. A city code violation can still be a criminal offense. However, both of your citations are likely minor misdemeanors, which are technically speaking, not criminal offenses. Though they both carry a minimum 6 month (up to 5 year) license suspension in addition to a max of a $150 fine.

FAFSA will suspend federal student aid for one (1) year of anyone who is convicted of a drug related offense while receiving federal student aid. They ask if you have been convicted of a drug related offense. If you plead to these offenses, you would have to answer “yes” to that question. However, they have some supplemental questions that may still allow you to receive financial aid. For example, I believe one of the questions asks if you were receiving federal aid at the time you were cited and/or convicted.

However, the Law Office of Brian Jones has had clients in your shoes before and has worked many favorable resolutions that prevented them from losing their federal aid. Some options include pleading to a different charge or getting “diversion” which dismisses the case upon completion.

Of course your case would also need to be thoroughly investigated to determine whether there are suppression issues. This means that if the police engaged in illegal, unconstitutional conduct the evidence may be suppressed and the case would likely be dismissed.

The Law Office of Brian Jones is experienced in dealing with these cases. As you can see with the FAFSA issue, these minor misdemeanors can have significant collateral consequences. Therefore, it is important to retain counsel that can investigate the case to search for unconstitutional police action or, if no suppression issues are found, to effectively negotiate with the prosecutor on your behalf.