November 12, 2019
How Criminal Charges Can Impact Your College Education
If you’ve been arrested, there’s something you need to know. It’s not just the fear of jail or hefty fines that should worry you. Truth be told, criminal charges can impact your college education. And, the standards for expulsion are surprisingly lower than you might expect.
As a student at any of the colleges or universities within Northeastern Pennsylvania, you should know how your school handles students facing criminal convictions. In some cases, you could be arrested right on campus. In others, it may be outside law enforcement agencies that charge you with an offense.
In the first place, don’t make the mistake of thinking that campus police officers aren’t “real cops.” For example, the University of Scranton’s Police Department is quick to point out that they have “full law enforcement powers, including the authority to make arrests for criminal violations on University property.”
The same is true for PennState Scranton’s University Police. If you are arrested by campus police, it’s no different than the Dunmore law enforcement authorities taking you into custody.
No matter what the offense is, you are subject to local and state laws. Although it’s rare, your charges could conceivably rise to the level of a federal crime. In any of these cases, it’s essential to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine the consequences of a guilty conviction.
In the meantime, most students and their parents don’t realize there’s another aspect of criminal charges for college students. Even if the district attorney decides not to pursue a case, the school may proceed with disciplinary action.
Criminal Charges and College Disciplinary Action
For many young people, attending college represents the first time they are away from home. The sudden independence often brings some bad judgment. One of the most common charges on college campuses involves underage drinking or DUI offenses. The latter tends to be most prevalent as students head home for Thanksgiving.
However, criminal charges involving college students cover a wide range. At the lower end, there are disorderly conduct charges. However, that’s not to say that men and women can’t also be accused of something as serious as rape while they are pursuing their degrees.
All colleges and universities have school disciplinary codes. Take a look at Marywood University’s Alcohol and Controlled Substances Policy. Notably, the document addresses concerns about use, possession, or distribution of any illicit drugs. More specifically, it states that “Students alleged to possess or use such substances will be subject to the conduct process independent of any external legal action.”
Of course, that begs the question. What is the conduct process? Essentially, it’s the university’s way of determining whether disciplinary action appears appropriate. This could include suspension or expulsion from the school.
In the meantime, here’s something that gives rise to further concern. The standard of proof for criminal charges within Pennsylvania’s legal system means your guilt must be beyond a reasonable doubt. In schools such as Marywood, the standard of evidence in the conduct program is a preponderance of the evidence.
Once again, you could find yourself guilty as far as the disciplinary process, even if you are deemed innocent in a court of law. You can, therefore, see how seriously criminal charges can impact your college education.
At Mazzoni Karam Petorak & Valvano, we understand the significance of legal charges filed against college students. We can help you through both the disciplinary action and court matter. Contact our offices to schedule an appointment.