Your *son* should get an attorney. You can pay the fees for him if you like, but the representation will ultimately be between your son and counsel.
Tell him not to discuss what happened with anyone other than his attorney (including you) and not to speak to police without an attorney present. He should discuss the details of this with an attorney. A conviction for drug possession absolutely can affect some forms of financial aid, so it’s important that when he’s discussing any plea options with his attorney, the implications for his education and financial aid options are something that’s discussed.
Most first-time possession cases that I’ve seen that take a plea bargain (…and most people choose to take a plea bargain, which has its upsides and its drawbacks) end up with what’s called a “suspended sentence,” wherein the accused ultimately serves little or no jail time (unless they violate the terms of their suspended sentence) but has to complete a substance abuse evaluation, complete probation, pay a fine, and/or other terms to be determined by the court. Even getting a suspended sentence, though, would involve admitting guilt to the charge, which absolutely may compromise your son’s financial aid (depending, of course, on the financial aid.)
There really isn’t a cut-and-dry answer to this. A lot depends on situational details — how he was caught, how any subsequent search happened, whether he was Mirandized before being subjected to questioning, what he did or didn’t admit to police officers, what he was or wasn’t asked, what the officers actually observed, and so on. Don’t disclose that information on here, please, but instead, help your son find a qualified attorney to walk him through what happened and what his options are now. Let him know that he shouldn’t discuss details of what happened with you, but only with his attorney; parent-child communications aren’t privileged.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal advice. This post was about someone’s college son who was caught smoking pot in Iowa. Consult with a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.