College sometimes feels like it exists in this weird middle ground between high school and adulthood. One on hand, the students are considered adults. They are not regulated by bells, hall passes, or confinement to campus. On the other hand, the college still expects certain behaviors from students. Individual professors can penalize absences, tardiness, and classroom misbehavior.
Furthermore, many colleges have conduct expectations. These restrictions can make the campus feel more like a high school than a place full of independent adults. Because of conduct restrictions, a school may be allowed to remove students who are arrested for a crime.
Standard Criminal Procedure
Many of us know the general steps of an arrest and subsequent criminal charge. Someone is accused and taken into custody. They may be forced to spend some time in jail before they are officially tried. People can pay for bail, getting released from jail to await trial. Eventually, the accused stands trial and is found guilty or not guilty. From there, they are either free to go, or they must serve their sentence. Superficially, this process has nothing to do with your schooling. Unfortunately, authorities often report an arrest to a student’s college.
If you are arrested as a college student, exercise your right to remain silent. You don’t have to answer any questions beyond general information like your name, birth date, etc.
Contact a lawyer immediately after your arrest. Most likely, your school will eventually find out, so you need to get ahead of the situation. Your attorney can sift through your school’s code of conduct and begin preparing your defense, helping keep you enrolled.
School Discipline Procedure
Schools are not beholden to the same legal standards as the criminal justice system. To find you guilty of a crime, courts must prove your guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It must be 100% sure that you committed the crime.
Colleges can use much looser standards. You could be expelled using the “clear and convincing evidence” guideline, meaning it’s highly probable you committed the crime. Using percentages, the college must be around 85% sure of your guilt.
Higher learning organizations could have even less rigorous standards. To kick you out, they might use the “preponderance of evidence” model, meaning they must be only 51% sure of your guilt.
Fortunately, not all violations lead directly to expulsion. A school can enforce other disciplinary actions. You could lose certain campus privileges, or the school may order you to perform campus or community service. Some colleges still use suspensions, and others put their students on probation.
Common college conduct violations include:
- Sexual assault
- Violent crimes
- Drug possession
- Public intoxication
- Burglary/trespassing/breaking and entering
Furthermore, many respected colleges and universities are religion-based. They may have even stricter rules, banning:
- Use of alcohol or pot
- Sexual behavior between unmarried students
If your school performs disciplinary hearings, which many do, contact an attorney for help. Often, schools rely on the unpreparedness of students, doling out punishments as they see fit. Arriving at your hearing with evidence and representation can throw them off, leaning the ruling in your favor.
If you are not allowed representation at your hearing, you can still benefit from an attorney’s guidance. They can help you collect evidence and build your defense. They can coach you on what to say and when to keep quiet, strengthening your argument. Don’t allow your school to treat you like a high school student. Show them that you are ready to advocate for yourself and that you deserve to remain on campus.
If you are a college student facing criminal charges, contact our firm for help. Schedule a free consultation online, or call us at (540) 827-4446.