College Student Criminal Defense in Gloucester County

The primary responsibility of a university is to educate students and prepare them to become leaders of the future. However, this is only possible if they can harbor a safe environment on campus. Every day across campuses in Gloucester County, New Jersey, criminal activity occurs, and colleges are obligated to protect their students, staff, and visitors from harm.

Colleges create unique disciplinary processes that allow them to investigate misconduct and sanction individuals who commit crimes on campus. In many cases, faculty and staff are obligated to report all instances of misconduct they encounter if it occurs on campus or involves the school.

With increased levels of scrutiny, students attending colleges and universities in Gloucester County are at higher risk of being charged with a crime and facing disciplinary action. In fact, it is not uncommon for students to be under investigation by police and school officials at the same time, further complicating the process.

Defending yourself against one set of accusations, let alone two simultaneously, is tough for the average person. If you are a student accused of a crime by your university or college, the Lento Law Firm can help craft a solid defense to limit sanctions and criminal punishments. Call our Criminal Defense Team today at 888-535-3686 or schedule your consultation online to get the help you need.

Gloucester County Charges and School Discipline

Interactions between law enforcement and school officials mean that students are more likely to be investigated for potential crimes. Schools that believe a student may have committed a crime often notify local law enforcement and kick off investigations. Police will then arrest the student if they have probable cause and forward the case to prosecutors.

However, students are also at risk of school discipline if police arrest them for a crime, no matter where the alleged offense occurred. Police often inform relevant institutions after they make an arrest, whether it is a college, licensing board, or workplace. Once your school learns about the details of your misconduct, they can take action using their own rules, regulations, and processes for discipline.

For example, if a fellow student accuses you of assault on campus and informs the police, law enforcement will likely involve your college officials as they begin an investigation. However, if that same report was made to the college, officials at the school could reach out to law enforcement as part of their disciplinary process.

This interconnected nature can swiftly lead to someone accused of a crime facing investigations and accusations from multiple sources at once. The best way to protect yourself is to work with attorneys with experience representing clients inside the courtroom and before school officials. With your future at stake, don't try to build a defense without proper guidance.

Consequences of Criminal Charges and School Discipline

Nowadays, a college degree is the one thing that all employers are looking for when making hiring decisions. Anything that threatens your ability to secure a diploma should be handled with the care it deserves. Even if a criminal conviction seems scary, being accused of misconduct on campus may have even worse consequences.

Just like punishments for criminal convictions, the consequences of college disciplinary action can vary widely. At the most basic level, school disciplinary actions can limit what classes you can take, what campus housing is available to you, and which scholarships you are eligible for. However, suspension or expulsion from the school is not off the table for serious offenses that you do not vigorously defend yourself from.

If your school suspends you from campus or entirely expels you from your program, it affects more than just the short term. Many students undergoing these high-stress situations are dealt severe blows to their mental health and confidence levels. Furthermore, applying to a different school in the future will require you to relive the situation as you explain what caused your suspension or expulsion. With competitiveness in college admissions at an all-time high, having disciplinary action on your permanent record can introduce untold amounts of setbacks in your educational and professional career.

Gloucester County Campus Crimes

Living on campus does not mean your college is the only authority overseeing your behavior. Anything you do on campus, even if it does not directly break the rules in your school handbook, can lead to convictions and imprisonment if it breaks New Jersey laws. Some of the most common crimes that take place on Gloucester County college campuses include:

Alcohol and Drug Violations

NJ law strictly prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from buying, consuming, or simply possessing alcohol. Excessively drinking as an underage student can have long-lasting consequences, affecting your educational future and freedoms.

Similarly, the possession or use of controlled substances without a prescription is illegal, regardless of age. Punishments depend on the amount and type of drugs defined by federal and state drug scheduling laws. In large amounts, heroin, LSD, and even marijuana can lead to years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

Criminal Mischief

Damaging or recklessly tampering with someone else's property, such as vandalism or graffiti, can result in a criminal mischief charge. If you are found guilty of criminal mischief, it is common for courts to mandate monetary restitution and community service.

Disorderly Persons Offense

If you yell and scream at other students, disturb the peace, or physically shove and intimidate others, you may soon face a disorderly persons offense due to your improper behavior. Depending on your actions, a guilty verdict can imprison you for up to 30 days and fine you hundreds of dollars.

Sex Crimes

The punishments for sex crimes like rape, sexual assault, and criminal sexual contact in New Jersey can be harsh. For serious or repeated offenses, punishments can exceed a decade behind bars and require you to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life.

Most students in Gloucester County who are on the receiving end of a sex crime accusation on campus will also have to endure a Title IX investigation. Law enforcement and school officials will cooperate to investigate any allegations of sexual misconduct involving students, regardless of where the alleged offense occurred.

Harassment and Hazing Offenses

Even though some may see college rituals as harmless fun, others may consider it a hurtful and illegal act. New Jersey has criminalized hazing, defining it as any activity that threatens to injure someone during an initiation to a group, fraternity, or organization.

Harassment is also not uncommon on campuses, and any series of alarming, annoying, or threatening conduct directed at a victim might lead to school and police intervention.

False Identification Offenses

False identification offenses can take many forms, but they usually involve someone using online means to impersonate another person to disparage them or unlawfully gain a benefit.

Stalking Crimes

Stalking can be a profoundly unsettling and dangerous experience for victims. New Jersey law defines stalking as the repeated attempt to harass, interact with, follow, or communicate with someone to the point where they fear for their safety.

Gloucester County Criminal Procedures

Certain crimes are more common on Gloucester County campuses, but any accusation, regardless of its contents or merit, can place your future at risk. Call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team as soon as you know of criminal charges regarding your conduct on campus. Our attorneys can assist you in clearing your name and fighting back against false or malicious allegations.

Students accused of crimes in Gloucester County can expect to endure a criminal process following these general steps, all of which skilled attorneys can assist with:

  1. Pretrial Procedures: Students accused of crimes must attend pretrial hearings for procedural matters, like bail hearings. Attorneys can start building a defense even at these early stages to help secure an acquittal.
  2. Burden of Proof: Due to the presumption of innocence, prosecutors are almost always required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused student committed the crime.
  3. Motion to Dismiss: If prosecutors at this early stage of the process cannot produce enough evidence to highlight the defendant's potential guilt, defense attorneys can move for a motion to dismiss the case. This eliminates the need for a lengthy trial with very limited potential for a conviction.
  4. Trial: Successfully defending against criminal charges at trial requires attorneys to present a narrative, show compelling evidence, and talk to witnesses who bolster their client's side of the story. Prosecutors will be working against you, and your attorney's job is to present a case that persuades the court to rule in your favor.
  5. Sentencing: If the court finds you guilty, a sentencing hearing will determine your punishment.

Your criminal punishments may not be the end of your hardships. If your college learns of a successful criminal conviction against you involving on-campus behavior, they may start their own disciplinary proceedings. The Lento Law Firm can help prevent criminal processes and disciplinary procedures from getting out of hand and threatening your educational prospects.

Gloucester County School Disciplinary Procedures

Even if prosecutors are already filing formal criminal charges, police can amplify the threats to your future by informing your college or university. Misconduct on campus grounds or related to the college allow school officials to investigate and bring disciplinary charges that can result in an early end to your time enrolled at the school.

Each college manages its affairs in unique ways, and the specific disciplinary process you face will depend on where you attend school. In general, the process will include the following steps:

  1. Complaint: School officials learn of your alleged misconduct through a direct complaint or information passed along by law enforcement.
  2. Investigation Phase: To determine the validity of an accusation, schools will appoint an investigator to gather facts and witness testimony. In most cases, schools will inform the accused student of the ongoing investigation and provide them an opportunity to respond through an interview or written answer.
  3. Pre-hearing Conference: After an investigation's conclusion, school officials will use the facts of the report to determine what punishment, if any, is required. The student can either agree with the report or request further hearings.
  4. Hearing: In a formal hearing, students accused of misconduct can present their side of the story, dispute specific facts of the report, and argue for lesser punishments.
  5. Decision: Like a judge in a court trial, hearing officers or panels of school officials will listen to the arguments made in the hearing and determine if a student is responsible. Depending on the alleged offense and specifics of that college's disciplinary process, the sanctions resulting from this decision can range from simple warning letters to expulsion from the institution.
  6. Appeal: Decisions aren't always final, and students can appeal to a higher authority to reverse or amend their sanctions.

Many students accused of misconduct on campus have the false belief that colleges have ultimate authority to handle discipline on their campus. However, every student has the right to prepare a defense and work with an attorney when they come under fire and face accusations. Schools must protect their students and faculty from harm, but they also have a duty to handle all disciplinary processes with impartiality.

Experienced Gloucester County, NJ, School and Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal convictions and unfavorable school disciplinary sanctions can severely hamper a rising student's prospects. If someone accuses you of misconduct on campus, you must take all accusations seriously and work with an experienced team of attorneys to protect your future.

The Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has represented students across New Jersey who are threatened by malicious, false, or misrepresented accusations. Call us today at 888-535-3686 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation. Whether you are dealing with criminal charges or a college's disciplinary process, we can help you come out the other side with your head held high.

​​​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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