College Student Criminal Defense in Bergen County

No one starts college expecting to face disciplinary action or, even worse, criminal charges. After all, colleges should be a haven for developing new skills, nurturing potential, and exploring new-found independence. However, as is true across New Jersey as a whole, Bergen County colleges and schools have a duty to keep students, faculty, and visitors safe. They also have a duty to consider the wider area and the impact that students may have on the local community. 

With these obligations in mind, Bergen County schools take any allegations of crimes committed on (and off) campus seriously. So seriously that they have various rules and regulations aimed at identifying, disciplining, and even removing students they believe to have committed crimes. They also have policies for reporting alleged crimes and other suspicious behavior, and all students, faculty, and visitors are expected to remain vigilant and report concerns.  

If you're accused of a crime while studying in Bergen County, you might assume that the possible criminal consequences or punishments are all you should worry about. However, colleges can – and will – discipline students harshly for crimes on campus. 

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is ready and waiting to stand with you. We'll help you understand the situation, explore your options for dismissing the charges or mitigating the outcome, and ensure that you receive fair treatment at every stage. Whenever you need us, the Lento Law Firm is here for you. Call us now at 888.535.3686 to schedule your consultation. Or leave us a message online, and we'll respond promptly. 

Not only could you face a criminal record, but you could also face serious disciplinary action that would affect your ability to graduate or progress through your program. 

Given how high the stakes are, you should consult a criminal defense attorney the moment you discover that you're facing criminal investigations.  

Bergen County Charges and School Discipline 

No matter which Bergen County school a student attends, there's a clear reporting process for both schools and law enforcement.  

If a school discovers that a student may have committed a crime, they have the choice to inform law enforcement. Typically, they will inform the police because it's then up to law enforcement to determine if there's probable cause to arrest the student and possibly pursue criminal charges. In such cases, law enforcement reviews the matter and will inform the school how they intend to proceed. Similarly, if police officers arrest a student for an on-campus crime, they'll often inform the school. The school can then decide whether to discipline the student or let law enforcement handle the matter alone.  

For example, if the school finds a student in possession of marijuana, they might tell the police. Or, if the student is arrested for drug possession, the college or university may be notified. In either case, the student could face possible criminal charges and internal school investigations. This may have significant academic and personal consequences for the student involved, even if the accusations turn out to be untrue, unfounded, or exaggerated in some way. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help mediate the situation and mitigate the risks of a student facing both criminal and school sanctions.     

Consequences of Criminal Charges and School Discipline in Bergen County 

It's common for students to assume that criminal consequences – such as fines or even jail time – will have the most significant impact on their future. While such consequences will undoubtedly affect the student, it's not always the case that criminal penalties are the most significant in the long run.  

If a Bergen County school decides to discipline a student for on-campus crime, there are many potential consequences, and some are more obvious than others. These consequences often endure far longer than criminal penalties. For example, if a school suspends a student, it could impact their chances of securing scholarships, entering grad school, and graduating alongside their classmates. Moreover, if the school expels the student, they may be unable to complete the program elsewhere, meaning they're prevented from entering their profession of choice. In the long term, this affects a student's earning potential and job satisfaction. They'll also still be responsible for their student debt, even if they can't complete their program. 

Criminal penalties do, of course, also have an impact. For example, students with no-contact orders against them could be unable to attend certain classes, social events, or extra-curricular activities such as sports games. They may also face social stigma and isolation from their peers. In all cases, whether the student faces criminal and/or school sanctions, they could suffer mental health issues such as anxiety or depression as a result of the stress and uncertainty around the situation.  

At the Lento Law Firm, our Criminal Defense Team understands how significant and far-reaching such consequences can be for students. Every student facing criminal punishment or school sanctions is advised to call our team of attorneys to discuss the matter.  

Bergen County Campus Crimes 

Crimes occurring on-campus are not immune from criminal prosecution – schools might be a haven, but they're still subject to the laws of NJ criminal courts. Some on-campus crimes are more common than others, so below is a list of the types of cases we see most frequently in Bergen County. 

Alcohol and Tobacco-Related Offenses 

It's illegal in New Jersey for under 21s to possess, consume, or purchase alcohol. It's also illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase tobacco products, including electronic tobacco devices.   

Bergen County Sex Crimes 

The definition of a “sex crime” is wide and includes various sexual activities, ranging from indecent exposure to rape and aggravated sexual assault. Punishments vary depending on the severity of the charges, but they can include placement on the sex offender registry and jail time.  

From a school's perspective, on-campus sex crimes raise Title IX issues. Every school in Bergen County receiving public funding must have procedures for investigating on-campus sexual misconduct. A failure to do so can impact the school financially, so students can expect schools to launch Title IX investigations if there are sex crime allegations on campus.  

Bergen County Stalking Crimes 

It's an offense to stalk, meaning to repeatedly attempt to contact or follow another person with the intent of causing alarm. Placing someone in fear of harm or deliberately causing them to worry for their safety can be punished severely by both the criminal justice system and schools.  

“Criminal Mischief” 

Criminal mischief is broadly defined as deliberately destroying, tampering with, or damaging another person's property. In a college context, criminal mischief often means vandalism.  

Disorderly Conduct in Bergen County 

In Bergen County, as is the case across NJ, disorderly conduct is behavior that is intended to cause alarm, public inconvenience, or public risk. It includes physical fighting but also creates a potentially volatile or dangerous situation with no legitimate purpose.   

Drug Offenses in Bergen County  

Drug offenses range in severity from simple possession charges to intent to distribute. The penalties vary depending on, for example, the quantity of drugs found and the classification of the substance, e.g., possession of Schedule I drugs may attract higher penalties than possession of Schedule V drugs.  

False Identification 

False identification includes any behavior where a student impersonates someone else or misrepresents themselves in some way. It also includes more serious identity theft.  

Hazing and Harassment Offenses  

In NJ, the following activities are illegal: 

  • Harassment: Disturbing or alarming someone intentionally.  
  • Hazing: Endangering others during college fraternity or sorority initiation rites.   

Harassment and hazing are broad terms that schools may interpret liberally to make examples of students who break the law.  

Bergen County Criminal Procedure 

NJ criminal procedure is, for the most part, uniform across the state. In short, law enforcement investigates any possible criminal allegations. Should they find probable cause to proceed further, they'll notify the prosecutor and move forward. It's essential for a student to get legal advice at this stage to protect their legal rights. 

Should the prosecutor decide to press charges, the main steps are as follows.  

  • Pretrial Procedures: These initial proceedings, which can involve bail and arraignments, allow both sides the time to build a case.  
  • Burden of Proof: Typically, the onus falls on the prosecutor to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the crime took place as described. If they fail to satisfy this burden, the case is dismissed. 
  • The Motion to Dismiss: The defense can opt to file a motion to have the case dismissed if they believe there's insufficient evidence to proceed.  
  • Criminal Trial: At the trial, both sides present their arguments, examine witnesses, and put forward evidence to support their position(s). 
  • Sentencing: There's a second hearing to pass sentence against the student if they're found guilty.  

The outcome of the criminal case could affect how the school disciplines the student. For example, if they see the student is guilty, they may be more likely to pass harsher sanctions. It's not uncommon for schools to wait for the criminal trial to finish before acting, which is why students often face penalties from the criminal courts and their own school. 

Contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team immediately if you're facing charges. We can protect your rights and help you understand your options for defending the case. 

College Disciplinary Procedures in Bergen County 

Every college and university in Bergen County has its own unique procedure for addressing misconduct on campus. However, they all broadly follow a similar pattern, which we can outline below.  

  • Initial Complaint: The complainant notifies the school of the incident. This could mean the school receives a police report or a complaint from a student or other individual. 
  • Investigation Stage: During this stage, a school investigator interviews both the complainant (or law enforcement) and the accused student. They'll determine if there are grounds to pursue disciplinary action or if the complaint should be dismissed.  
  • Pre-Hearing Conference: The student meets with the school to discuss the outcome of the preliminary investigation. Should the student wish to do so, they can agree to the sanctions without proceeding to a formal hearing. However, any student considering this should remember it will affect their ability to appeal or challenge the decision later. It will also affect their school discipline record. Call our firm before contemplating admitting to any allegations.  
  • School Disciplinary Hearing: At the hearing, the student presents their case. They can cross-examine opposing witnesses and challenge evidence. This is the student's most crucial opportunity to defend themselves and present a compelling argument in their favor.  
  • Hearing Decision: After reviewing the evidence and what they've heard, the hearing officer or panel decides what action to take. They should inform the student in writing of the decision. For example, they may decide to take no further action or sanction the student, e.g., by placing them on probation or suspending or expelling them. 
  • Appeal: Should the student wish to contest the school's decision, they usually have a right to do so. At the time of issuing the hearing decision, the school should also set out in writing the steps for appealing the sanctions.  

As mentioned, every school is unique. The procedures will vary by school and, to some extent, by the nature of the charges. The Lento Law Firm understands the nuances involved and can help students make sense of which rules apply in their situation.  

Contact the Experienced Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team  

Criminal proceedings are, undoubtedly, highly stressful, and they can have severe consequences. But so too can college disciplinary procedures – especially if a school elects to expel a student. At the Lento Law Firm, our attorneys understand precisely what's at stake if you're facing school disciplinary action or criminal charges. We will endeavor to do everything possible to ensure the best outcome for you in the circumstances. At every stage, we will protect your legal rights, stand by your side, and answer any questions you have. 

Do not attempt to navigate the minefield of Bergen County criminal or college disciplinary procedures alone. Instead, call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888.535.3686 or online. We'll schedule a consultation, listen to what's happened, and discuss how to move your case forward.  

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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