College Student Criminal Defense in Warren County

If you're in school in Warren County, New Jersey – whether at Centenary University or Warren County Community College – or if you are from Warren County and attend school elsewhere, one thing you need to keep in mind is that both on-campus and off-campus misconduct can have serious consequences. When a college student is arrested, local authorities may bring criminal charges, and their school may also discipline the student. If this happens to you, this kind of “double whammy” can have serious consequences for your education and for your future.

That's why if you are a college student and have been arrested, whether for on-campus or off-campus actions, you need experienced help from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team. Our attorneys understand the unique position that college students facing criminal charges often find themselves in – having to defend against both criminal charges and school disciplinary allegations. Call us at 888.535.3686 or schedule a confidential consultation to learn how we can help.

Warren County Charges and School Discipline

Campus safety has become an increasingly important topic at schools all across the country, including in Warren County. Both Centenary University and Warren County Community College have on-campus security staff that work closely with local police departments to help keep their campuses a safe place for students, faculty, staff, and visitors. When a student is arrested on campus, the Warren County Prosecutor's Office will be responsible for making decisions about whether and how the case will be prosecuted. The same office will, of course, also be responsible for handling cases when students are arrested off-campus anywhere in Warren County.

Whether the school elects to bring disciplinary proceedings as a result of an on-campus or off-campus arrest is entirely up to the school. While it's extremely likely that school officials will be aware of an on-campus incident that results in a student's arrest, even arrests that happen in nearby towns may be brought to the school's attention – if not by local law enforcement, then by residents. In addition, there are a number of local news sites that regularly report on arrests and incidents that don't make it to more “mainstream” media sites, which means that even relatively minor matters can end up on the Internet, available for anybody to find and read about.

As a student enrolled in a college or university – whether in Warren County or elsewhere – you thus may face two sets of proceedings if you're arrested: one criminal and one disciplinary. It's very important to keep this in mind as you defend yourself because it seriously complicates your situation. That's why it can be so helpful to work with an experienced attorney from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team, someone who understands the special “double-prosecution” problem that college students can face when they're arrested. Resolving the criminal case is often only part of the challenge; the student can still face disciplinary charges at school, even if the criminal case was dismissed. Our attorneys understand that and will do their best to help you in both situations when defending you.

Consequences of Criminal Charges and School Discipline

If you're convicted of a crime while attending college – even a minor one – it can shadow you for years and make your future much more challenging. You may be required to disclose it when you apply for jobs, try to rent an apartment or enroll in graduate school. The stress you'll face while trying to defend yourself against criminal charges while still going to school can make learning extremely difficult. Then consider, on top of all of that the added strain of facing a disciplinary investigation and proceeding at school, one that could result in your suspension or expulsion, or a permanent disciplinary notation on your transcript. It's far from the ideal college experience.

When you work with one of the experienced attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team, we will help relieve you of much of the pressure of having to face your criminal and possible disciplinary charges. Instead of worrying about how you're going to defend yourself in two separate situations you probably have very little experience with, you can take comfort in knowing that someone with experience helping college students such as yourself will be fighting for your rights and negotiating on your behalf, with your future and your college career in mind.

Warren County Campus Crimes

When you're on a college campus, particularly if you're living on or near campus, the whole environment might feel as though it's separate from the rest of the world. You're surrounded by other students, many of whom are close to your age, and the atmosphere tends to be focused on education and community. It's very different from “real life” in the rest of the world, but make no mistake about it: crimes do happen on campus, and federal, state, and local laws apply. As a result, if you're arrested for committing an on-campus crime, you will have to endure the same procedures and face the same potential penalties as you would if you were arrested in a nearby town.

That said, there are a number of crimes that typically occur on college campuses. They include:

  • Property Crimes. Things get stolen on campus – from dorm rooms, classrooms, the library, the student center, locker rooms, parking lots, and elsewhere. New Jersey has a number of laws that apply to property crimes at various levels.
  • Alcohol Offenses. New Jersey's drinking age is 21, and underage students caught with alcohol on campus can be prosecuted just as they can be off-campus.
  • Drug Offenses. While New Jersey has largely legalized marijuana, it remains illegal for those under 21. And schools almost universally prohibit marijuana possession or use on campus. In addition, there are many other drugs that remain illegal, and can result in a student being arrested for on-campus or off-campus possession. Criminal charges can be serious, as can school discipline for drug-related misconduct.
  • False Identification. It's a fact that many students have and try to use fake IDs, usually to buy alcohol or get into places that are restricted to ages 21 and over. In New Jersey, simply having a fake ID – even if you don't use it – can be grounds for prosecution. Many schools also separately prohibit fake IDs.
  • Criminal Mischief. This is a type of crime that can be charged in a wide range of cases, including ones involving vandalism or graffiti. Depending on the severity of the behavior, penalties can include up to 5 years of jail time and a fine of up to $15,000. If the charge is graffiti, the defendant can be required to pay to have the defaced property restored and can also be required to provide 20 days or more community service.
  • Disorderly Conduct. As another broad type of crime, you can be charged with disorderly conduct for a number of different reasons, including making too much noise at the wrong time and place or getting into a scuffle or fight. In most cases, it won't result in jail time, but it could last up to 30 days. In many cases, penalties are suspended, provided the defendant stays out of trouble for a certain period of time. But if you're convicted, you'll still have a record. And even an arrest with no conviction can result in your school bringing disciplinary proceedings against you.
  • Harassment. Students can be charged with harassment if they repeatedly contact someone in a way that causes or is likely to cause “annoyance and alarm.” This is also an area that schools will often regulate against, with school discipline happening even when the student isn't charged with a crime.
  • Stalking. A student who repeatedly tries to contact someone, or to interfere with their day-to-day life can be charged with stalking. This is another type of crime that schools often specifically prohibit and will discipline students for.
  • Hazing. Fraternities and sororities are prohibited by law from putting potential members in danger as part of the initiation process. Schools also prohibit this, meaning that if you're accused of hazing, you can be prosecuted by the state and disciplined by your school.
  • Sex Crimes. As do most states, New Jersey has a wide range of laws against a number of different sex crimes. These include sexual assault (also known as rape), aggravated sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, and indecent exposure. These can be extremely serious, and a conviction can result in years of prison time as well as a requirement that the defendant register as a sex offender for the rest of their life. Schools will also strongly discipline against sex-related misconduct under their “Title IX” policies.

Of course, any type of conduct that violates New Jersey law can be prosecuted, whether it happens on- or off-campus.

Warren County Criminal Procedures

As noted above, the Warren County Prosecutor's Office will be responsible for deciding whether to bring charges against a student who is arrested anywhere in Warren County. The prosecutors will work with local police to review the case and decide what charges to bring – or whether to dismiss the matter without bringing charges. If you're arrested, this is when it can be enormously helpful to have an experienced criminal defense attorney defending you. The best result following an arrest is to have prosecutors decide not to bring charges, and having someone who understands the laws and the system discuss your case with prosecutors at the earliest stages can sometimes lead to a decision not to bring charges.

That's obviously not going to happen in every case. When charges are filed against you, having someone on your side who is ready to fight for your rights, to negotiate with prosecutors from a position of knowledge and strength, and who has trial experience can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is ready to step in and protect you and your future in these kinds of situations. We know that the criminal case is only half the story; in many situations, our student clients must also be concerned about defending themselves in school disciplinary proceedings.

Warren County School Disciplinary Procedures

Every school has its own set of disciplinary policies and procedures that apply to student conduct. Centenary University, for example, has a detailed student handbook that includes a “Code of Citizenship and Ethical Behavior” and a “Code of Student Conduct.” Warren Community College's Student Handbook similarly covers student conduct and disciplinary procedures. Centenary notes that violations of the Code of Student Conduct “are prohibited on campus, at any clinical or internship site, and at any university-sponsored or university-affiliated activity or event.” In addition, it applies at “any location where a student is engaged in a university-related activity.” The school also makes clear that it “reserves the right to enforce this code even where civil authorities have acted” – in other words, even if the student is punished by the state. Finally, the school can decide to take disciplinary action where the “incident adversely affects members of the University community, interferes with the daily lives of local residents, and/or jeopardizes the University's positive public relationship with the public/community.”

This broad language is typical of school disciplinary policies. Schools regularly give themselves the power to discipline students for almost any kind of on-campus or off-campus misconduct. How that discipline works will vary from school to school but typically will include some or all of the following steps:

  • Investigation of the Complaint. When the school receives a complaint (which is sometimes filed by the school itself but can also be filed by anyone), the school will review it to determine whether it describes a potential violation of school policies. If it does, the school may investigate further, interviewing the student, the complainant, and any witnesses.
  • Charges Filed. Where the investigation appears to support the complaint, the student may be charged, and a potential penalty may be assessed. The student can often agree to accept the penalty or can decide to contest it.
  • Settlement Discussions. Many complaints are resolved without a hearing. This is where having an experienced attorney representing you in discussions with the school can help tremendously. Your lawyer can often propose less serious consequences that will have little or no effect on your future; in other cases, where negotiations are not successful, your attorney can help you prepare for a hearing.
  • Hearing. Cases that don't settle will often proceed to a hearing. This is where working with an attorney who understands the often-relaxed evidentiary standards that apply in these situations can make all the difference. Making sure the school follows its own rules, pointing out when it doesn't, and fighting for your rights can help you end up with a much better result than if you defend yourself without the benefit of an experienced advocate.
  • Ruling. After the hearing, there will be some sort of ruling. Any appeal that may follow this will depend on the school's policies, but in most cases, there is a way to appeal an adverse result.

Because each school's disciplinary policies and procedures are slightly different, it can make all the difference to work with an attorney who has experience with different situations and has the flexibility to adjust to each case. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team includes criminal defense attorneys who also have helped students protect their rights in school disciplinary cases. This experience helps significantly in situations where an arrest also leads to school disciplinary charges.

Premier Warren County, NJ School, and Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are a student who has been arrested while attending school – whether the arrest is for on-campus or off-campus misconduct – know that your school is very likely to have the ability to discipline you for that arrest. This can happen even in situations where the authorities decide not to prosecute. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team is here to help you through both sides of these situations – the criminal side, where you face the possibility of having a record before you graduate college, and the school disciplinary side, where you could find yourself suspended or expelled for the incident even if you're not prosecuted.

The important thing is to contact the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team as soon as possible so that we can provide you with help from day one. Call us at 888.535.3686 or schedule a confidential consultation today. Your future is too important to leave to chance; let us help you protect it!

​​​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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