College Student Criminal Defense in Cape May County

College should be a place where students can thrive and explore their new-found independence in relative safety. They should not be concerned about possible criminal investigations for on-campus incidents, and yet, students are often severely punished for relatively minor matters.  

One of the main issues a student faces is a dual punishment from both law enforcement and their school. This is because, unsurprisingly, schools take their obligations to keep students, staff, and visitors safe seriously. They have various rules, regulations, and conduct codes in place, which students must follow or risk serious disciplinary action, up to and including expulsion.  

At the Lento Law Firm, we care about defending the rights of students accused of on-campus crimes. We know that every student deserves the opportunity to pursue their chosen career and reach their full academic and professional potential. It's our privilege to serve students by explaining their legal rights, preserving those rights at every stage of disciplinary proceedings, and mitigating disciplinary action where possible. To learn how we can help you, call 888.535.3686 now or tell us about your case online

Criminal Charges and School Discipline in Cape May County 

Law enforcement and schools work closely to identify, investigate, and sanction on-campus criminal activities. The goal is to protect the rights of students, visitors, and staff to feel safe and secure on campus. It also helps to protect the local community and make residents feel safer. Although the exact process varies by school, we can typically expect matters to proceed as follows. 

If law enforcement learns of a crime committed on a Cape May County campus, they may report it to the school at their discretion. It's then the school's decision whether to investigate the matter and discipline the student or leave the matter to the criminal justice system.  

Should the school learn of the incident first, they may report the matter to law enforcement. Police officers will investigate, and if there's probable cause, they'll arrest the student and refer the matter to the prosecutor, who may file charges. For example, say a student is reported for vandalizing a visitor's car, or committing some other disruptive act on campus. Although the police may elect to handle the matter alone, they can advise the school and keep them updated on how the case progresses.  

If the prosecutor does charge the student and criminal investigations get underway, the school may await the outcome of the criminal trial before deciding whether to discipline the student. This could have the effect of a student being disciplined twice for the same crime – once by the courts and once by the school.  

Consequences of Criminal Charges and School Discipline 

When students are arrested for crimes on campus, they often worry about the possible criminal consequences and penalties. This is, of course, understandable. After all, the consequences of a criminal conviction include having a criminal record, paying fines, undertaking mandatory drug and/or alcohol counseling, and even jail time. For some offenses, such as sex crimes, there's also the stigma attached to the conviction – and the long-term impact on employment prospects in sectors where the student may be placed in a position of trust, such as social work or medicine. And if there's a restraining order or other similar order awarded against the individual, then they may be unable to even attend classes, extracurricular activities, or social events. 

However, despite these admittedly worrying consequences, we cannot overlook or downplay the possible impact of school disciplinary action on a student's future. In some cases, these consequences can far outweigh the criminal penalties.  

For example, suspended or expelled students may be unable to complete their program. This could limit their employment prospects in the long run. It could impact their ability to progress financially, and they may be left with significant student debt they won't be able to pay off. Or, they won't be accepted into grad school, which could limit their professional ambitions in other ways. There's also the mental, emotional, and psychological impact to consider. Students may feel isolated and alienated from their peers, especially if they aren't progressing at the same rate. They may be ostracized after disciplinary action and lose friendship groups. Such events can leave long-term emotional scars.  

Although it's not always possible to avoid disciplinary action entirely, students should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity to maximize their chances of at least mitigating the severity of the punishment. The Lento Law Firm Team is passionate about helping students preserve their future and get the second chance they deserve. We understand that everyone makes mistakes, and a single incident should not derail a promising student's prospects.  

Cape May County Campus Crimes  

There are, of course, no limits to the crimes that may be committed on a Cape May County school campus. Some crimes are more common than others, however, and we can summarize them as follows.  

Alcohol and Tobacco Use  

Although alcohol and tobacco are common substances on college campuses, it's illegal in NJ for anyone under the age of 21 to buy, use, or possess alcohol or tobacco-related products, including electronic cigarettes. It's also illegal for over-21s to knowingly supply such products to their younger peers on campus.  

Criminal Mischief in Cape May County 

Criminal mischief is, essentially, vandalism or deliberately tampering with someone else's property. Criminal mischiefis common on college and university campuses and, as a result, can be punished severely.  

Disorderly Conduct 

Disorderly conduct in Cape May County is any behavior or pattern of behavior intended to alarm or disrupt the public. It's illegal as it may put members of the public at risk. Examples of disorderly conduct include creating a dangerous situation deliberately or causing a fight.  

Cape May County Drug Offenses 

Drugs are not uncommon on college campuses. However, students found in possession of any quantity of drugs face possible criminal charges and school disciplinary action. 

The extent of the punishments will vary considerably depending on the drug classification, the quantity of the drug(s) the student possesses, and whether the drug is for personal use or there's an intent to distribute. In all cases, though, drug-related offenses can incur serious punishments, so it's advisable to call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team immediately if you're facing charges.  

False Identification 

It's a criminal offense to impersonate others or make false representations about one's own identity. This might include behavior such as “catfishing” online but also more serious identity theft.  

Hazing and Harassment 

In Cape May County, it's illegal to harass individuals or undertake “hazing” rituals as part of sorority or fraternity initiations.  

Both harassment and hazing have broad definitions. Broadly speaking, harassment includes deliberately subjecting others to abusive, harmful, or degrading treatment. Harassment means alarming, annoying, or disturbing someone with the intent to upset them.  

Cape May County Sex Crimes 

Sex crimes vary and include sexual assault, rape, indecent exposure, and coercive behavior. The punishment for sex crimes depends on the severity of the offense and the nature of the crime. However, placement on the sex offender registry is likely, and jail time is a possibility.  

Title IX rules may also require a school to undertake its own investigations into on-campus sex crimes. Otherwise, their funding could be at risk. This means that students dealing with sex crime allegations are likely to face criminal sanctions and school disciplinary action.  


Stalking means deliberately undertaking a pattern of behavior that causes someone alarm or fear for their safety. Stalking can take place online or in person.  

Cape May County Criminal Procedures  

Criminal procedures across NJ are, undoubtedly, complex. However, there's a set process for handling any criminal allegations that we can summarize below.  

  • Pretrial Stage: This stage involves various procedural elements depending on the allegations, including possible bail hearings and arraignments.  
  • Burden of Proof: The prosecutor must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, which means that the only likely explanation is that the crime occurred as described. It's a high bar to meet, but nevertheless, the affected student must be prepared to present a strong counterargument. 
  • Motion to Dismiss: The defendant can file a motion to have the charges dismissed if they believe there's insufficient evidence to move forward. The Lento Law Firm Team can advise if this is appropriate in your case.  
  • Trial: The criminal trial involves all parties. The affected student can present their own evidence and testimony and cross-examine the prosecution's case. Although the burden of proof falls on the prosecution, it's still critical to present the most compelling arguments to plant those all-important seeds of doubt in the prosecutor's case.  
  • Sentencing Hearing: Should the student be found guilty of an on-campus crime, a second hearing is scheduled to pass sentence.  

Cape May County School Disciplinary Procedures  

Every school in Cape May County approaches disciplinary action a little differently. However, there are broad similarities in how school disciplinary procedures work. Cape May County on-campus crime investigations usually proceed as follows.  

  • Complaint: The complainant, or police officer, brings the allegations to the school's attention. The school will appoint an official to investigate the matter further and determine what course of action may be appropriate. 
  • Investigation: The school conducts initial investigations into the matter. This may involve interviewing witnesses and scrutinizing the available evidence. They'll also meet with the student in question to determine if the matter should be dismissed or if there are grounds for further investigation. 
  • Pre-Hearing Conference: A pre-hearing conference is the student's first opportunity to discuss the outcome of the preliminary investigations. Often, students are encouraged to admit to wrongdoing and accept a “suitable” punishment to avoid a full disciplinary hearing. Students should, however, discuss the matter with the Lento Law Firm Team first, as admitting to wrongdoing will lead to disciplinary action and a permanent mark on academic records. 
  • Disciplinary Hearing: The disciplinary hearing is less formal than a criminal court appearance; however, it must still be taken seriously. This hearing is a student's chance to defend themselves by cross-examining witnesses and the evidence against them and presenting their own evidence in their defense.   
  • Decision Issued: The hearing officer or the school officials who heard the case communicate the decision to the affected student. This should be done in writing.  
  • Right of Appeal: Students will normally have the right to appeal disciplinary action, especially serious sanctions such as suspension and expulsion. Schools should write out the particulars so that students understand how to start the appeals process. 

Premier Criminal Defense Attorneys in Cape May County, NJ 

It's understandable for students to be reluctant to hire an attorney even if they're facing school disciplinary action or criminal charges. After all, hiring a lawyer can seem intimidating, and you're probably feeling overwhelmed enough by the whole situation right now as it is. However, it's critical that you get the legal support and advice you deserve. Otherwise, you could be suspended or expelled from your program without having a full and fair opportunity to defend yourself. 

At the Lento Law Firm, our Criminal Defense Team understands what you're going through. We want to make this uncertain and stressful time as simple as possible. Depending on what happened, we will work with you to either have the charges against you dropped, or we'll endeavor to mitigate the severity of the punishment. In every case, our lawyers are firmly in your corner. We will fight for you and ensure that your school – and prosecutors – respect your legal rights at every turn. 

Don't attempt to handle school disciplinary sanctions or criminal charges alone. Get the help you need for on-campus crime allegations. Call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team at 888.535.3686 or reach us online to schedule a meeting.   

​​​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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