College Student Criminal Defense in Salem County

A seemingly innocent prank goes wrong. A night to unwind after a stressful midterms week ends in jail. What seemed like a private online conversation went viral and ended with accusations of bullying and harassment.

College students can face criminal charges or disciplinary action for any number of reasons. Some incidents may result in a student facing both. Even when based on the same incident, navigating the criminal process and the disciplinary process are different. They may require different evidence or defenses.

Students may just be tempted to agree with the charges to move on with their lives. This mistake can cost them in the form of hurting their education and their future opportunities.

Students who understand the process can get charges dismissed or lessened. They can provide defenses to their conduct or additional evidence.

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team works with undergraduate and graduate students in Salem County and throughout New Jersey. We know the importance of education, and we help our clients defend their education, their careers, and their future. Contact us using this form or by calling us at 888-535-3686.

Salem County Colleges and Universities

The smallest county in New Jersey, Salem County, is home to Salem Community College. The county is also close to several other colleges and universities, including some located in Delaware and Pennsylvania.

If students live in one state and attend college in another state, they should be aware that a college may discipline a student even when an incident occurs out of state. That a crime occurred in a different state doesn't mean a school cannot discipline a student.

College Discipline and Criminal Charges

A school's disciplinary proceedings are different from a county or state criminal proceeding. This means that a student may face both disciplinary proceedings and criminal proceedings for the same incident.

Not every criminal allegation will result in a college or university taking disciplinary action. Not every accusation of student misconduct will result in a referral to law enforcement.

Similarly, if a student is acquitted of a criminal charge, it doesn't mean they won't face disciplinary action. That a student doesn't face disciplinary action doesn't mean they won't be convicted of the crime.

Disciplinary proceedings and criminal proceedings may have some similarities, but they have different results and different rules and policies governing them. A student needs to prepare for each, and the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help. We work with our clients on both disciplinary proceedings and criminal proceedings, helping them understand the ins and outs of both.

Consequences of Criminal Charges and Convictions

Facing both criminal charges and disciplinary proceedings can be overwhelming. It may be tempting to just accept the outcome in hopes of moving on quickly. The problem is that a criminal conviction can permanently affect your career and your life.

Students also shouldn't assume that a school disciplinary record doesn't matter. It may limit their opportunities and affect their ability to apply to future programs. If a student ends up suspended or expelled, that can ripple through their life for years.

Colleges and employers may request college disciplinary requirements as part of the application process. For students planning to transfer schools, such records may determine whether they're admitted. Approximately 75 percent of colleges and universities request a student's disciplinary history as part of the application process. Ninety percent state that a disciplinary record can influence admissions decisions.

A criminal record can limit what industries you can work in. Some employers may disqualify applicants with a criminal record. While landlords are now limited in their ability to reject applicants based on their criminal record, certain convictions may still make it more difficult to rent.

Salem County Criminal Procedure

Individuals are generally charged and tried in the county in which the alleged criminal activity occurred. The severity of the charges and the accused's previous criminal record are two of the factors that can influence how a criminal conviction proceeds.

Once charges are filed, the criminal process follows these basic steps:

  • Initial appearance and pre-trial procedures
  • Trial
  • Sentencing

Plea Bargains

In some cases, the prosecutor and defense attorneys may negotiate a plea bargain. A plea bargain is often a lesser charge or punishment than what an individual would get if they were found guilty in court. A defendant must not be pressured into this decision, but once they agree to a plea bargain, they lose their right to appeal.

Pretrial Intervention Program

Some first-time, nonviolent offenders may be eligible for the Pretrial Intervention (PTI) Program. PTI allows individuals to avoid a conviction. Those admitted to the program must agree to satisfy conditions set by the court within 36 months. It also allows people to get the counseling, supervision, and other services they need.

Salem County College and University Disciplinary Procedure

Colleges and universities have more leeway in setting policies than K-12 schools. They're also more likely to expel students as a result of serious misconduct issues.

While schools often have similar procedures and policies, students shouldn't assume they're all the same. When facing discipline, students should rely on their school's code of conduct and policies to understand the disciplinary process.

Salem Community College has a Committee on Student Conduct and Discipline. This group ensures students facing misconduct allegations have the opportunity for a hearing and to present any evidence of defenses. The committee also recommends any penalties.

The United States guarantees that all students have the right to a free K-12 public education. There's no equivalent right at the university level. Colleges and universities have the right to suspend or expel a student at any time, including for off-campus conduct.

The Financial Cost

Beyond fees and fines, students face other financial costs. Convictions for certain drug offenses can result in a student losing access to federal financial aid. As Salem Community College points out, a student dismissed for disciplinary reasons isn't entitled to any refund of their tuition or other fees.

Salem County Campus Crimes

Any type of crime can potentially result in both criminal charges and allegations of student misconduct. That a crime occurs in a different county or state from where you live or attend college doesn't mean you're exempt from school discipline.

What follows are examples of just some of these crimes. If you're facing any criminal charge and/or disciplinary action, the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help.

Underage Drinking and Student Alcohol Use

Anyone under the age of 21 who is found to be possessing, buying, or using alcohol may face criminal charges. Depending on each college or university's policy, students found to be violating New Jersey laws about possession of alcohol, drugs, or other controlled substances may face significant disciplinary actions, up to and including suspension and expulsion.

Salem Community College is a dry campus. This means that possessing, consuming, buying, or selling alcohol on its campus is against school policy, even if over the age of 21.

Where students over 21 may run into trouble with criminal law is if they provide alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. This can include providing a space for them to drink even if the of-age adult isn't present.

Drunk Driving and DWIs

Those over age 21 face DWI charges when their BAC is above .08. For those under the age of 21, being found with any alcohol in your system results in a DWI charge. Those with multiple DUIs face stiffer penalties, including having their driver's license suspended.


While marijuana is legal for those over the age of 21 in New Jersey, that doesn't extend to college campuses. Colleges and universities generally follow federal law, which means that marijuana is illegal to possess, consume, or distribute.

Students on any type of financial aid or scholarship should be aware that a conviction for marijuana or other controlled substances may make them ineligible for federal financial aid and/or scholarships. Being blocked from receiving financial support may essentially end a student's time in school, even if they avoid stiffer criminal or disciplinary penalties.


New Jersey uses a limited definition of hazing. To qualify as hazing, the incident in question must:

  • Have occurred as part of an initiation to join a student or fraternal organization
  • The membership of that organization is predominantly students or alumni.

Hazing covers a wide range of actions. It can include encouraging someone to commit an illegal act, harassment, and serious injury or death. Even if not guilty of hazing, students may still be found guilty of other crimes and still face disciplinary action or criminal charges.

Property Damage

Known as criminal mischief in New Jersey, the criminal consequences for property damage depend on the property broken or destroyed and the extent of the damage. The location can also factor into sentencing.

Individuals are found guilty of criminal mischief when they:

  • Intentionally or knowingly damage someone else's tangible property
  • Recklessly or negligently destroy someone else's property through fire, explosives, or other dangerous means
  • Purposefully, knowingly, or recklessly tamper with someone else's tangible property to endanger another person or property

Disorderly Conduct

A common crime on college campuses, disorderly conduct, is an act or behavior that causes a public disturbance. New Jersey defines public as affecting people in a place that everyone or a significant number of people can access. This includes schools, apartment buildings, and neighborhoods.

Someone may be charged with disorderly conduct when they:

  • Engage in a fight or other threatening, violent, or tumultuous behavior
  • Create a hazard or other physical danger without any legitimate purpose
  • Use offensive language in a public place when intended to offend others or showing reckless disregard for the likelihood of offending others

Sex Crimes

Sex crimes carry serious consequences. Even a false accusation can affect your reputation. A student may avoid a prison term but still face expulsion under the college disciplinary process.

Sex crimes can range from indecent exposure to aggravated sexual assault. This includes nonconsensual pornography or recording a sexual act without informing the other party, and more commonly known as revenge porn.

Under the Violence Against Women Act, colleges and universities must report and investigate all alleged sex crimes.

Internet Crimes

Most colleges and universities now have code of conduct policies on online harassment and stalking, regardless of whether the incident occurs off school grounds or outside of school activities. This is in addition to New Jersey criminal laws, which prohibit online harassment.

Academic Crimes

Some allegations of academic misconduct may rise to the level of criminal activity. Certain forgeries and falsifying or hiding documents with the intent to deceive someone are crimes in New Jersey. Falsifying or tampering with records is a fourth-degree crime in New Jersey.


Someone is guilty of stalking when they follow or otherwise act in a way that would make a reasonable person fear for their or someone else's safety. Actions that can be considered stalking include:

  • Repeatedly staying physically close to or within sight range of someone
  • Directly or indirectly following, surveilling, or observing someone
  • Communicating any threats to a person

Stalking may result in criminal charges or a restraining order. Most schools also prohibit stalking in their codes of conduct. Federal law also requires that schools report stalking, along with domestic violence and dating violence.

Weapons and Firearms

In addition to college and university policies, New Jersey bans bringing any weapon or firearm onto school grounds. Being convicted could result in a misdemeanor or felony with a possible imprisonment of up to ten years.

The state also limits the storage of certain dangerous chemicals, fireworks, or explosives. Even if residing off campus, an individual charged under one of these laws may face both criminal charges and disciplinary proceedings.

Protect Your Education

You've worked hard for your education. You have plans for your life and career. Criminal charges and disciplinary action could derail all of these goals.

Even if you did err, you don't have to simply accept punishment. You have the right to introduce evidence and defend yourself. A lesser charge or disciplinary action may limit the long-term damage to your life.

If you're a college or graduate student facing criminal charges and/or disciplinary action, the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help. We work with college students throughout New Jersey. 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.

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