Being convicted of criminal drug crimes means lifetime consequences - a conviction will follow you through life, even if you are not in jail.
This is the case for one Georgia woman who was sentenced to almost 16 years in jail for her role in a cocaine distribution ring in the late 1980s. She was only 19 years old when convicted.
The young woman was found guilty of helping her drug-dealing boyfriend, specifically of participating in a conspiracy and aiding and abetting the distribution of cocaine.
After she served eight years, a newspaper featured her story in an article about Georgia's mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes and the story caught the attention of a lawyer who then worked to have her freed.
President Bill Clinton ultimately ordered her to be released in 2000.
Now, at age 42, this woman has bachelor's and law degrees under her belt. She is able to boast career accomplishments that include working in a public defender's office in Washington D.C. and hosting a radio show.
But, this woman's drug conviction still looms over her after all of these years. She would like become a public defender herself, but her criminal history prohibits her from admission to the Georgia State Bar.
One of the only ways to pass that restriction is with a presidential pardon. She applied for a pardon this spring and it remains unclear whether the pardon office will send her case to President Obama.
This case illustrates many elements of the high stakes of drug crimes. This woman was able to overcome many obstacles and achieve much success after life in jail, but a conviction from more than 20 years ago still affects her.
While the outcome of drug crime accusations depends somewhat on the circumstances of an arrest, it is of ultimate importance to have a quality defense in order to avoid a conviction or obtain a dismissal of charges when possible.
Source: Pro Publica, "Starting Over: When Presidential Forgiveness Changes a Life," Dafna Linzer, Dec. 3, 2011