A program that was created to protect nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems may not be available for a young man from New Jersey. A student at Columbia University, he had been arrested last year along with four of his classmates. They are currently facing drug charges.
In general, being charged with a drug crime can lead to serious consequences. Charges can range from drug possession to prescription drug sales. In any case, penalties can land an individual in prison for a long time. For these five students, a criminal conviction and a prison sentence could change their futures.
The students were the focus of a five-month long investigation. Undercover police officers were in communication with the five men, allegedly striking deals to purchase candy laced with drugs. The undercover officers would apparently meet the students in their fraternities to make the exchanges.
After they were arrested and charged, one student pled guilty and was given a six-month jail sentence and probation. The other four were offered five years probation if they took a plea agreement - none of them did.
Their other option to avoid spending time in prison was to take part in a diversionary program. The program, as mentioned above, is intended to help nonviolent offender who have a substance abuse problem. The program offers alternatives to prison with the hopes of treating the abuse problem. However two of the students were denied acceptance into the program even though they claimed substance abuse problems.
The New Jersey man is currently waiting to hear whether he can participate. The court will evaluate his situation and determine whether he is eligible. This will likely involve looking at whether he is addicted to drugs and what motivated him to sell the drugs. If he is denied, he could be spending the next two years in jail if convicted.
Source: Bloomberg: "Columbia University Drug Suspects Denied Request for Diversion,"Chris Dolmetsch, Oct. 11, 2011