College Student Criminal Defense in Union County

As a student attending college in Union County, New Jersey, or if you live in Union County and go to school in another county, it's important to understand that your behavior both on and off campus can result in your school disciplining you – even in cases where you are never prosecuted after an off-campus arrest. Schools such as Kean University, Union College, and others typically have broad discretion when it comes to student discipline for on- and off-campus misconduct. That's why if you're a student and have been arrested, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands how your arrest can also result in you being disciplined by your college or university.

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team knows that when a college student is arrested, there can be two sets of consequences – one based on the criminal case against them, the other based on their school's disciplinary charges. Call us today at 888.535.3686 or schedule a confidential consultation to learn how we can help protect your rights in both situations.

Union County Charges and School Discipline

Campuses across the United States, including, of course, Union County, are committed to protecting students, faculty, staff, and visitors from crime, and many – such as Kean University – have their own campus police forces with full police powers. Other schools will maintain campus safety officers with more limited powers, but in either case, school safety officials will regularly and closely communicate with neighboring police departments when necessary to help them enforce the law.

Students who are arrested for on-campus misconduct in Union County will be prosecuted by the Union County Prosecutor's Office, just as they would be if they were arrested off-campus in a nearby town in Union County. Any time a student is arrested, there is the potential for their school to bring disciplinary charges against them based on the conduct related to their arrest. When the conduct and the arrest take place away from campus, the police or local residents may report the student to the school. When the conduct and arrest happen on campus, the report may come from the school's own police or security officers.

This means that if you're arrested for any type of crime in Union County, on or off campus, you can end up facing two sets of what will feel like prosecutions. One could come from the Union County Prosecutor's Office, which could decide to bring criminal charges against you. The second could come from your college or university, which could decide to initiate disciplinary proceedings against you. What many students don't realize – and many defense attorneys fail to appreciate – is that how you defend yourself in one case can greatly affect the outcome of the other. That's why if you're a student who's been arrested, you need the help of the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team. Our attorneys understand that you may be facing two sets of problems, and we will work hard to defend you in both cases. We will keep in mind that actions taken in one case can affect how the other one is resolved.

Consequences of Criminal Charges and School Discipline

Criminal convictions can be devastating. Being found guilty of even a lower-level crime can make your life and your future more difficult for years or decades to come. Going through the process of being arrested, booked, and charged can be very stressful and can affect your ability to focus on your education. Then, consider having to face a second investigation and possibly discipline from your school. Depending on its outcome, your school record could reflect the discipline and, in very serious cases, you may be suspended or even expelled.

This is why you need help if you're a college student charged with a crime. This is not a situation where you want to try to defend yourself against both criminal charges and your school's disciplinary proceeding. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team, however, understands these kinds of difficult situations. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys also understand the typical disciplinary process and standards used by colleges in Union County and across the US. We will help you understand the charges and allegations against you, defend your rights in both the criminal and school disciplinary case, and help you resolve a very complicated situation in as favorable a way as possible. Our attorneys will lift much of the burden off of your shoulders so that you can focus on learning and moving forward.

Union County Campus Crimes

A college campus is not an island that's separate and apart from the “real world,” even though it may feel like one sometimes. Laws that apply in New Jersey also apply to schools located in Union County. If you're accused of committing a crime on campus – whether it's by Kean University police or local police working with Union College's Department of Public Safety – you will face the same penalties as those you would face if you were accused of committing a crime anywhere in the state. There are a number of crimes; however, they typically happen on college campuses. These include:

  • Criminal mischief. This can cover a number of different types of offenses, including vandalism and graffiti. It can be a third-degree or fourth-degree crime and can lead to a jail sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $15,000. In the case of graffiti, the student may also be required to pay to restore the defaced property and can be required to provide 20 days or more of community service.
  • False Identification. While many students may believe having a fake ID is not a big deal, if you're caught with one, you can be prosecuted – for “Impersonation” or “Theft of identity” – in New Jersey.
  • Alcohol offenses. Students who are under the age of 21 can be arrested and prosecuted for having, consuming, or dispensing alcohol – both on-campus and off-campus.
  • Drug offenses. While New Jersey has legalized marijuana (as with alcohol, for those over 21), there are many other drugs that remain illegal. And because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, colleges and universities ban marijuana possession and use by students so as not to jeopardize their federal funding. As a result, drug possession and use, on- or off-campus, can result in both serious criminal charges and strict school discipline, particularly for drugs other than marijuana.
  • Disorderly conduct. This is a lower-level crime that can be charged in cases where a student is simply making too much noise at the wrong place or time or where a student is involved in an altercation, whether or not it involves physical contact. While a conviction can theoretically come with a 30-day jail term, most penalties are less than that or are suspended pending good behavior by the defendant. A conviction will still result in you having a record, and even being arrested can result in your school bringing disciplinary action against you.
  • Harassment. New Jersey law prohibits harassing someone – essentially, contacting them in such a way that it's likely to cause them “annoyance or alarm.” Schools also regulate this type of behavior and can discipline a student even if the student isn't charged with criminal harassment.
  • Stalking. Similar to harassment, when a student repeatedly tries to contact or interfere with someone, they can be charged with stalking in New Jersey.
  • Hazing. This is a specific crime in New Jersey that applies to situations where someone is placed in danger as part of an initiation, typically into a sorority or fraternity. Schools also prohibit hazing, and will discipline students found to have violated the school's policy or New Jersey anti-hazing laws.
  • Sex crimes. New Jersey has a number of laws against a variety of sex crimes. These include sexual assault (commonly referred to as rape), aggravated sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, and indecent exposure. A sex crime conviction can lead to decades in prison and required registration as a sex offender for the remainder of your life. Schools have their own procedures for disciplining sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination, typically under the school's “Title IX” policies.
  • Property crimes. Whether it's items from a dorm room, a backpack in the library, or a car parked in a lot, theft takes place on college campuses just as it does in the outside world. New Jersey prosecutes a wide range of property crimes at various levels, depending on the type of crime and the amount that's been stolen.

There are, of course, other crimes that can occur on college campuses. These are some of the more common ones.

Union County Criminal Procedures

Crimes in Union County – including those that take place at Kean University or on a Union College campus – are prosecuted by the Union County Prosecutor's Office in Elizabeth. If you're arrested in Union County, this is the office that will decide what charges, if any, to bring against you. It's also the one that your attorney will negotiate with when discussing a potential plea bargain or alternative to prosecution. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has years of experience defending clients involved in criminal prosecutions all across New Jersey. We understand how criminal cases work, what laws, rules, procedures, and standards apply, and how to negotiate with prosecutors on behalf of our clients.

At the same time, our attorneys have experience helping students defend themselves in school disciplinary investigations and proceedings. When you're facing two potential cases – one criminal, one disciplinary – arising from the same set of allegations, you need an attorney who will keep their eyes on both cases when defending you. The experienced attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team know how to do that and will fight for your rights both in court and in school disciplinary proceedings.

Union County School Disciplinary Procedures

Whether you attend school at Kean University, Union College, or a school located outside of Union County, your school has a code of conduct or honor code that it expects students to follow. When a student is accused of breaching that code, the school will have a set of procedures in place to investigate the allegations and, where appropriate, to bring disciplinary charges against the student.

What's important to understand is that schools typically don't require misconduct to happen on campus before the school can discipline a student. Most schools give themselves the power to discipline students for off-campus conduct, where the school believes the conduct will have some effect on the school or its reputation.

Kean University, for example, states that its code of conduct applies to off-campus behavior “when the administration determines that the off-campus conduct affects a substantial University interest.” This is extremely common – schools can essentially decide for themselves whether an off-campus arrest can be grounds for an on-campus disciplinary proceeding. And the arrest does not have to lead to a conviction. There is nothing preventing a school from disciplining a student who is arrested, even when the authorities decide not to prosecute the student and drop the charges.

Once the school receives a misconduct report against a student (which schools can file themselves in situations where an administrator is notified that a student has been arrested off-campus), there is typically a process that will follow. The steps will differ from one school to another, but often include:

  • Investigation. The school will gather information about the arrest and the incident that prompted the arrest. It may reach out to witnesses, particularly where the incident took place on campus, and may interview the student who was arrested.
  • Charges. The school will review the results of the investigation and may decide to drop or bring charges. Where it brings charges, it will notify the student and will typically provide the student with the background information leading to the school's decision to bring charges.
  • Pre-Hearing Conference. Many school disciplinary matters are resolved without a hearing, based on a conference between a school official and the student. The student may or may not be allowed to have an attorney with them at this conference; in either case, an attorney can, of course, help prepare the student for the conference.
  • Hearing. If not resolved with an agreement, the matter will typically proceed to a hearing. Both sides will usually be able to introduce evidence, including witnesses, and cross-examine the other side's witnesses. Attorneys may be allowed to be present but may or may not be allowed to participate.
  • Ruling. The hearing officer or panel will issue a ruling and, if it goes against the student, will typically recommend some form of sanction. These can range from the relatively minor, such as a verbal or written warning, to the severe, such as suspension or expulsion.
  • Appeal. In most cases, there will be a way for a student to appeal a hearing decision that is not in their favor.

Each school's procedures are different, which is why it's important to work with an attorney who has experience defending students in a wide range of disciplinary proceedings. Another thing to understand is that school disciplinary procedures typically give students fewer rights than the students have in their criminal cases – all the more reason to retain an attorney with experience in the student discipline area.

Premier Union County, NJ School, and Criminal Defense Attorney

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team has years of experience helping students accused of crimes on- and off-campus. Our attorneys understand that you may end up having to fight for your rights twice – once with prosecutors and once with your school – in any situation where you've been charged with a crime. We have the experience, the skills, and the understanding of New Jersey criminal law and school disciplinary procedures to help defend you in each situation.

If you are a student who has been arrested and charged with a crime, your future may depend on the outcome of not only your criminal case but any school investigation that may follow. This makes your situation even more complicated than one where someone who isn't a student is facing criminal charges. In short, you don't want to try to defend yourself in these cases; instead, call the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team to learn how an experienced attorney can help you.

Call us today at 888.535.3686 or use our contact form to schedule a confidential consultation. You have the rest of your life in front of you; let the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team help you protect that future.

​​​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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