College is an exciting time for young people; it is often their first time living outside their childhood home with their family. Living on campus brings a whole new type of previously unexperienced freedom. This is likely the first time a student is completely in charge of their own schedule without ever having to ask permission or be held accountable for their whereabouts. Every parent works hard to prepare their child for college and to reinforce good decision-making, but young people are notorious for making poor decisions. A college campus may feel like its own little town, separate from the rest of the world, but it isn't. Making a bad decision and committing a crime on a college campus can have lifelong, real-world consequences.
When a student commits a crime on campus, the negative impacts can extend beyond just disciplinary action on campus to criminal charges. These charges can result in fines, jail time, and the establishment of a permanent criminal record, which can follow them for years to come.
Additionally, colleges and universities rarely take crimes committed on campus lightly. Disciplinary action on a college campus will be no joke; this isn't like high school, where misconduct leads to detention or potentially, at worst, a few day's suspension. College disciplinary action can lead to consequences such as loss of campus housing, school-provided medical insurance and services, and accelerated loan repayment. Students may also face expulsion and prevention from transferring to another college or university.
If you are a student or the parent of a student who has committed a crime on an Atlantic County college campus, you must immediately hire a criminal defense attorney. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has helped numerous Atlantic County college students face criminal charges and school disciplinary actions. Being a young student will be no excuse in front of a judge or college disciplinary panel; you cannot afford to end up with a criminal record or school disciplinary record, which can ruin your ability to complete school and obtain employment and potentially ruin your life. Ensure you get the best possible criminal defense by calling the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or contacting us online today.
Atlantic County Campus Crimes
The same criminal code that applies to all of Atlantic County will apply to crimes committed at any Atlantic County college or university. While any violation of the criminal code can result in you facing criminal charges and potentially school disciplinary action, some crimes are more commonly seen on college campuses than others. Some of the most common crimes committed on college campuses include:
Underage Alcohol Use
A common criminal charge students frequently find themselves facing is the underage use of alcohol, also referred to as a minor in possession of alcohol charge, or "MIP" for short. Like all states, New Jersey prohibits those under the age of 21 from purchasing, possessing, or drinking alcohol in a public place, motor vehicle, or school. A charge of the underage use of alcohol can result in up to 180 days in jail and a fine between $500 and $1,000. If this is your first offense, it is particularly possible that your Lento Law Firm attorney can argue the charge down and minimize the consequences, such as a judge solely ordering community service. Even in the event of repeat offenses, your Lento Law Firm attorney may be able to get you out of jail time. Common jail time alternatives include a judge ordering your attendance in an alcohol abuse or rehabilitation program.
Criminal mischief is committing vandalism or causing some form of property damage. Under New Jersey law, criminal mischief is defined as purposely or knowingly damaging tangible property or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly tampering with the tangible property of another as to endanger a person or property. Examples of this crime include damaging campus property like stealing signs or graffitiing school property. The most common consequence of this crime is bearing the financial cost of repairing or replacing damaged property. However, more severe instances could result in imprisonment and thousands of dollars in fines.
Many different actions can result in a disorderly conduct charge; this is one of the most common college campus crimes. This crime often, but not always, occurs in conjunction with the underage use of alcohol. Examples of disorderly conduct include fighting or threatening others, creating hazardous or dangerous conditions, and using offensive or abusive language in public. In New Jersey, the penalties for disorderly conduct include 30 days in jail and a fine of $500.
Both law enforcement and college disciplinary boards take drug offenses incredibly seriously. Whether the charge is for possession of a small number of drugs or a large amount with the intent to distribute, you will be hard-pressed to get out of this charge without the assistance of your Lento Law Firm attorney. Under New Jersey law, drug offenses include possession of federally scheduled drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy, among other substances. Drug offenses have some of the steepest penalties, including a sentence of up to five years in prison, fines of up to $25,000, and court-ordered attendance in drug counseling and rehabilitation programs.
- Make, or cause to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or harm
- Threatens to or subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching
- Engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with the purpose of alarming or seriously annoying another person
In-person harassment is not the only form of harassment. Cyber harassment is an increasingly common crime as more people communicate through messaging apps and social media. In New Jersey, cyber harassment includes:
- Threatening to inflict injury or physical harm to any person or the property of any person
- Sends, posts, comments, requests, suggests or proposes lewd, indecent, or obscene material to or about a person to cause emotional harm or fear
- Threatening to commit any crime against a person or their property
If convicted of harassment or cyber harassment, you could face up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $500.
Hazing is a crime that is very common on campuses that participate in Greek life (e.g., sororities and fraternities). One college with a Greek life presence in Atlantic County is Stockton University. New Jersey categorizes hazing in two ways: you may face charges for either hazing or aggravated hazing. Hazing is defined as:
- Knowingly or recklessly organizes, promotes, facilitates, or engages in any conduct which places or may place another person in danger of bodily injury (there is an exclusion for competitive athletics events); and
- The actions are made in connection with the initiation of applicants or members of a student or fraternal organization.
Aggravated hazing includes the two above elements but adds the element that a serious injury to another person must have occurred due to the above actions.
Sex crimes are always taken incredibly seriously. In New Jersey, sex crimes include, but are not limited to, rape, criminal sexual assault, and indecent exposure. Sex crimes can come with heavy fines, long jail sentences, and a lifelong listing on the sex offender registry. A listing on the sex offender registry can result in limited employment opportunities and life-altering consequences for your current and future family life, as you won't be able to be around children in many situations and locations.
Consequences of Criminal Charges and Convictions
Conviction of any of the crimes mentioned above and more can result in a permanent criminal record. Criminal records are serious; many employers in all different professional fields will conduct background checks on potential employees. Unfortunately, many employers will disqualify someone with a criminal record without even giving you a chance to explain the situation or acknowledge your rehabilitation. Your Lento Law Firm, criminal defense attorney, will fight tooth and nail to minimize and, hopefully, dismiss your charges. The last thing we want is for a conviction to negatively impact the rest of our lives.
Atlantic County Criminal Procedure
If you are facing any criminal charge in Atlantic County, cases generally follow this timeline:
Pre-trial procedures will begin as soon as you are charged with a crime. When you are charged, you should retain a criminal defense attorney; the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has successfully represented numerous Atlantic County students in criminal cases and is here to help you. Our Team is well-versed in all the pre-trial hearings, motions, and procedures. During this time, both sides will build their cases, collect evidence, conduct depositions, and more.
At trial, both the prosecution and your Lento Law Firm attorney will present their case. Your Lento Law Firm attorney will vigorously present your defense and attack the prosecutor's evidence and witnesses. After the trial, the court will determine your guilt or innocence.
If you are found guilty, the court will decide on the appropriate punishment, whether fines, jail time, a rehabilitation program, or a combination of the above.
Having the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team on your side maximizes your chances of a positive outcome. We do everything we can to get your case dismissed or have you receive the minimal punishments available considering the charges.
Atlantic County College and University Disciplinary Procedure
Each college will have its own procedures for pursuing disciplinary action. Schools often have a designated office in charge of addressing disciplinary action; for example, at Stockton University, this office is the Office of Student Conduct.
Frequently, students and their parents don't realize that they are entitled to, and should have, an attorney present during the college disciplinary process. Just because this is not a legal proceeding doesn't mean the stakes aren't too high to gamble on. Your Lento Law Firm attorney can guide you through every step of the disciplinary process at your college or university. The timeline for disciplinary actions generally looks like this:
Your college will likely receive a complaint from another student or law enforcement if they were not informed of the on-campus crime when it occurred.
The school will assign an investigator to your case to collect evidence, interview you and others, and compile a report.
The pre-hearing conference is where you, your attorney, and the student conduct investigator or panel can negotiate an agreement without a formal hearing. This will often involve confessing to the crime and accepting an agreed-upon punishment. Having your Lento Law Firm attorney present ensures your college negotiates this agreement in good faith.
If an agreement is not reached, you will have a formal hearing, like a trial. Your Lento Law Firm attorney will argue your case and present an effective defense.
Shortly after, or potentially during your hearing, the Office of Student Conduct panel will notify you of its decision and punishment if they have decided to take disciplinary action against you.
You are entitled to an appeal if you disagree with the panel's decision. Your Lento Law Firm attorney will walk you through the process. Getting a better result on appeal is not uncommon. If you have gone through the disciplinary process so far without an attorney, it isn't too late to have the Lento Law Firm come to your defense to get you a better outcome the second time.
Retain the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team Today
When your freedom, future, and education are on the line, you need the help of the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team. Our Team has worked tirelessly to help students just like you in the fight against criminal charges and disciplinary actions for crimes committed on Atlantic County college campuses. Let us work for you; call 888-535-3686 today or schedule a consultation online.