College Student Criminal Defense in Passaic County

As part of the New York metropolitan area, Passaic County is a great location for attending college or graduate school. Students have the advantages, both socially and professionally, of living near the country's biggest city. Students may attend one of the county's colleges or attend another school in the region.

What could potentially derail all of these advantages are criminal charges, especially those related to on-campus crimes. Criminal charges can affect not only your time in school but also your future career options and reputation. With certain convictions, students may be barred from working in some industries.

Whether you're an 18-year-old freshman, a graduate student, or a student going back to school for a career change, being accused of a campus crime brings steep penalties if you're found guilty. Unlike K-12 schools, colleges and universities have a greater ability to expel students.

That a college or university is public doesn't lessen their ability to expel students. Part of this is because, while the United States guarantees the right to a K-12 education, no such right exists once students enter college.

Schools also have a responsibility to ensure their campuses are safe. Even if a crime occurs entirely on campus, schools may choose to refer the matter to local law enforcement, and students may end up facing both college disciplinary action and criminal charges. In this situation, double jeopardy, or being tried again for the same crime, doesn't apply.

If you're a college student in Passaic County or New Jersey and you're facing criminal charges, the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help. We work with our clients to help them understand and navigate both the college disciplinary process and criminal procedure. Whether you're facing misconduct or, criminal allegations, or some combination of both, the Lento Law Firm Team will be your advocate and defender. Contact us using this form or by calling us at 888-535-3686.

Passaic County Colleges and Universities

The New York Metropolitan Area is home to hundreds of colleges and universities, ranging from community colleges to some of the most respected research institutions in the world. The region is home to four Ivy League schools and the flagship schools for two of the largest public university systems, including Rutgers University.

Passaic County is home to three public higher education institutions and an institute with college credit options. These schools are:

These three schools alone have a total enrollment of 35,000 students. The county also has the Passaic County Technical Institute. While focused on the 9-12 school years and part of a public school district, the institute offers training programs for adults.

For these schools and any college or university, it's important to know each school's specific code of conduct and disciplinary procedure. While often similar, what's a minor infraction at one school may be a serious conduct violation at another.

College Discipline and Criminal Charges

Misconduct and criminal allegations generally begin in one of two ways:

  1. A college refers an incident to local law enforcement
  2. Local law enforcement notifies a college of an incident involving students

Not every disciplinary action will be referred to law enforcement. For example, allegations of plagiarism and some other types of academic misconduct are unlikely to be forwarded to law enforcement. There are exceptions, and as the Montclair State University Code of Conduct highlights, certain types of forgery may be referred to law enforcement.

Similarly, a school may not automatically subject a student to disciplinary action due to criminal charges or convictions. Students will also need to see in what circumstances they have to inform their college or university of criminal charges or convictions.

As Rutgers states in its code of conduct, disciplinary proceedings and criminal proceedings may occur at the same time or before or after each other. The outcome of one doesn't necessarily affect the outcome of the other. A student may have criminal charges dismissed but still face disciplinary action. A student may not be subjected to disciplinary proceedings but still face a conviction.

Any number of crimes may result in both criminal charges and disciplinary action. What follows are just a few examples. Even if not included below, the Lento Law Firm Team can help students navigate the burden of facing both criminal charges and disciplinary action.

Passaic County College Crimes

The rules of New Jersey and Passaic County don't cease to apply because a student is on a college campus. College campuses are still subjected to local, state, and federal laws. In some cases, the laws on college campuses may be more restrictive compared to being off campus.


Alcohol use is prohibited for anyone under the age of 21. College campuses, however, may have additional restrictions even once students are of legal age. William Paterson University, for example, has a list of when and where people may drink on its campus. The school also banned all alcohol delivery to residence halls.

Underage Drinking

A student under the age of 21 could face both criminal charges and disciplinary action. Anyone under the age of 21 cannot purchase, possess, or consume any alcoholic beverages in New Jersey. An underage individual caught driving with any alcohol in their system automatically faces DWI charges.

Even if a student doesn't drink alcohol, merely possessing alcohol under the age of 21 is enough to run afoul of New Jersey's criminal code. William Paterson University's code of conduct states disciplinary action includes the use of false identification, such as a fake ID or borrowing another person's ID.

The university's disciplinary action for underage drinking includes:

  • Referral to Counseling, Health & Wellness
  • Punitive actions, such as a suspension
  • Loss of housing privileges

This is in addition to any consequences of a criminal conviction. New Jersey divides underage drinking, also known as minor in possession, into first, second, and third violations. These can result in:

  • Written warnings
  • Fines
  • Community service
  • Loss of driving privileges
  • Jail time

Drinking Over 21

Even once a student can legally drink, schools may still have restrictions on when and how students can drink. Schools may restrict drinking to certain areas of campus or have restrictions in place on providing alcohol to those under the age of 21.

Being over 21 also doesn't mean immunity from alcohol-related charges. In New Jersey, providing alcohol to minors is a crime. This can include allowing a party that includes minors to happen at a place you own or rent. Even if you aren't present, if you were aware or otherwise made the space available, you could face criminal charges.

Tobacco Products

In New Jersey, the legal age to purchase tobacco products is 21. This includes e-cigarettes and vaping. That a student is a legal resident of another state and attends college in New Jersey doesn't matter.

Similar to alcohol, even if someone is over the age of 21, they can still face criminal charges. New Jersey has a law that bans providing, purchasing, or supplying any tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21. Individuals don't have to receive payment to be guilty under this law.

Schools may also limit or ban smoking on their property. Montclair State University is smoke-free, including in its residence halls. Students found violating that policy are subject to disciplinary action up to suspension.

Marijuana Charges

Students shouldn't assume that just because marijuana use is legal in New Jersey for those who are over age 21, they don't have to worry about criminal or disciplinary repercussions.

The Montclair State University Code of Conduct points out that while New Jersey has legalized marijuana for those over the age of 21, the school must comply with federal law. Under federal law, the use, possession, and distribution of marijuana, even for medical reasons, is prohibited on any university property or at any university event. Convictions for certain controlled substance offenses may make a student ineligible for federal financial aid.

Criminal Mischief

Criminal mischief is the legal term for damaging another person's property. An individual may be charged with criminal mischief when they:

  • Intentionally or knowingly damage another person's tangible property
  • Recklessly or negligently destroy another person's property due to use of fire, explosives, or other dangerous means
  • Purposefully, knowingly, or recklessly tamper with another person's tangible property to put a person or property in danger

New Jersey gives the example of a tenant who damages a rental property in response to being evicted.

When determining a punishment, the amount of property damage a person caused factors into the decision. The type of property destroyed also factors into sentencing. If found guilty of damaging a research facility, a student will be charged with third-degree criminal mischief. This carries a potential five of up to $15,000 and three to five years in prison.

In comparison, a student found guilty of causing less than $500 in damages is charged with a disorderly person offense. This carries a maximum $1,000 fine and six months imprisonment.

Even if guilty of an allegation, students may be able to receive a lesser charge or use a defense to the charges that either entirely or partially justifies their actions. Even a lesser charge can potentially minimize the damage to your reputation and future. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help.

Weapons and Firearms

It's illegal to bring any firearm or weapon onto a New Jersey campus. The exceptions are if you're law enforcement or have permission. This ban also includes storing any dangerous chemicals, fireworks, or explosives in an off-campus property.


New Jersey's hazing laws require that the actions in question occurred as part of an initiation to join a student or fraternal organization. The membership must be predominantly students or alumni. Hazing can range from encouraging someone to engage in an illegal act to causing serious injury or death.

Even if not guilty under hazing laws, a student may be charged under other laws. For example, a student allegedly sexually harassed and assaulted another student as part of a hazing ritual. Even if it's found that the events weren't part of a hazing ritual, that student may still be guilty under sex crime laws.

Students may also face disciplinary charges related to hazing. At Montclair State University, the minimum penalty is suspension, but the school may choose to expel students who are found to be responsible for hazing.

Sex Crimes

Rape, sexual assault, and other sex crimes carry serious penalties. Those found guilty face the possibility of long prison sentences and hefty fines. They may be listed on a sex offender registry.

Often referred to as Title IX violations on college campuses, these crimes carry serious disciplinary penalties. Passaic County Community College uses the term sexual misconduct in regards to:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Sexual violence
  • Domestic violence
  • Dating violence
  • Stalking

Even when sex crimes occur off campus and outside of school events and hours, students may still face disciplinary action. The school also points out that illegally taking photos of someone in a gym, locker room, or restroom may subject them to disciplinary action.

Cyber Crimes

Schools have generally expanded definitions of harassment and bullying to include actions that occur online, even when a student is working from an off-campus location. New Jersey law also prohibits cyber harassment.

Most codes of conduct prohibit cyberharassment and bullying. Rutgers, for example, points out that any online media, including chats and blog posts, is part of the public sphere. Accusations of cyber harassment or bullying can not only lead to disciplinary actions or criminal charges, but they can also seriously affect a student's reputation.

Student Organizations

In some cases, a student organization may face disciplinary action due to a student's or students' actions or behavior. It's not simply a student being a member of an organization but when a student or students are acting on behalf of or participating in a student or campus organization when the alleged incident occurred. This includes off-campus conduct.

If a student is accused of violating the law or university policy as part of a college organization beyond the disciplinary or criminal proceedings, they may also face social repercussions. They may lose friendships or other relationships with other students if an organization faces disciplinary action, up to and including suspension.

Protect Your Future

Facing either disciplinary action or criminal charges can be stressful. Having to deal with both at the same time, especially when attending college, can be overwhelming. It can be easy to just agree with the charges in hopes of moving on. The problem is that simply agreeing with the charges can result in them following you and negatively affecting your life for years.

If you're facing criminal and/or disciplinary charges, you need help and support. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help you understand both processes and consider your options. We help our clients protect their education, future, and reputation. Contact us using this form or by calling us at 888-535-3686.

​​​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.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.