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Potential Ramifications of Getting in Trouble as a College Student in NJ

March 29, 2024

College Student Defense Attorneys in Burlington County NJ

Need a Lawyer for College and Criminal Defense Mount Laurel NJ

College campuses are like cities, with dense populations and local and state laws governing them. Students come to colleges in New Jersey expecting protection against criminal activity, and higher education institutions are vested in keeping campuses safe. Safeguarding their reputations and attractiveness as a university, colleges prosecute and discipline lawbreakers on and off campus. As a manner of course, you could subject yourself to university disciplinary proceedings and the criminal justice system when you commit a crime while attending college. However, accusations are not convictions, and you have a right to defend your innocence to the fullest extent possible.

Our college student defense lawyers at Proetta, Oliver, & Fay are committed to defending clients who have been arrested and charged with crimes in Burlington County and surrounding areas in Southern New Jersey. We protect your rights during university investigations and disciplinary proceedings, as well as in Superior Court or Municipal Court in Mount Laurel, Mount Holly, Lumberton, Riverside, Pemberton, Delran, Florence, Bordentown, Burlington Township, and other nearby areas. We invite you to contact us anytime for a free consultation to discuss your situation if you are facing college student criminal charges of any kind, which may also lead to university disciplinary review.

Top Crimes at Colleges and Universities in New Jersey

Campus crimes are no different than crimes anywhere else, though drugs, alcohol, and physical altercations, and unlawful sexual conduct are well-known at schools. The following are the most frequently seen criminal offenses on college and university campuses and against students off-campus.

Alcohol-Related Offenses

Since college campuses are filled with 18- to 24-year-olds, underage drinking is a typical college crime. New Jersey law forbids anyone under 21 from purchasing, drinking, or having alcoholic drinks. Depending on the circumstances, underage drinking may result in a disorderly persons offense. A conviction can mean six months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine.

Offenses Involving Controlled Dangerous Substances

Drug offenses can be far more serious. Again, the circumstances, drug, and amount figure into the penalty for illegal drug possession or distribution. Selling drugs is typically a more severely punished crime than mere possession for personal use. New Jersey law bases the severity of the offense on the federal drug schedules, with Schedule I drugs, like heroin, associated with longer prison sentences and higher fines than Schedule IV drugs, like Ambien. However, the quantity of illegal drugs determines the severity of the crime, too. A student may face a possible prison sentence of 18 months to 10 years or more.

Rowdy Behavior and Fighting

Rowdy behavior is also a typical source of crime in and around college campuses. Under the umbrella of disorderly conduct are several unlawful behaviors, such as fighting, screaming, pushing, and insulting people, throwing and breaking things, and threatening people or using offensive language toward others. These behaviors are menacing to the public and curbed by penalties for petty disorderly persons offenses of disorderly conduct or disorderly persons offenses for simple assault, which can lead to 30 to 180 days in jail, respectively, and hundreds of dollars in fines.

Damaging Property

Other types of disruptive behavior that lead to damaged property rise to another level, called criminal mischief. These are not merely rowdy behaving groups of college students but vandals who destroy property. The behaviors qualifying for a criminal mischief conviction range from graffiti on public property to the destruction of campus buildings and expensive tools, technology, and equipment they hold. Offenders may face 30 days in jail to much longer, depending on the property value losses. Students could face jail, community service, fines, and restitution payments.

Hazing and Harassment

Another common crime revolves around traditions. Campus life is known for Greek life fraternity and sorority initiation rituals, including hazing. However, hazing is illegal. Every year, students injure or kill students during hazing rituals. Related criminal behaviors include harassment aimed at frightening or annoying others. Harassment may be in person or electronically through text, phone, email, or the Internet. Penalties depend on the severity of the behavior and resulting harm.

Sexually Motivated Crimes

One form of harassment may be sexually motivated. Communicating lewd materials over various media may lead to severe charges such as cybercrimes. However, sexual assault, aggravated sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, and indecent exposure (lewdness) are crimes resulting in decades-long consequences for students just starting in life.

Many sex crimes require prison sentences and lifelong registration on New Jersey’s sex offender registry. A registered sex offender faces extreme housing and employment obstacles as the registry is a public record meant to warn neighborhoods of nearby sex offenders. Moreover, school discipline is more likely to lead to dismissal when violent sex crimes threaten campus safety.

Watching, Following, or Stalking Another Student

Stalking is a campus staple, also. It is the persistent tracking of another by keeping someone in visual proximity, following someone, harassing an individual, or other unwanted or threatening communication or interference with another’s peace. Stalking is a state crime and a reason for school disciplinary action.

Impersonating Someone Else

Identity theft, impersonating someone, and identity misrepresentation are actionable offenses punishable by three to ten years in prison, depending on the losses resulting from the thefts. Given how rampant identity theft is everywhere, college campuses are motivated to discipline those who commit all theft crimes that threaten campus and community safety.

Two Distinct Proceedings that can Arise from a Crime on NJ Campus: Criminal Charges and School Discipline

Repercussions of School Disciplinary Action

Involvement in crime on campus or off can lead to disciplinary action by the college administration, such as warnings, probation, suspension, or discharge from the college. The consequences of school discipline, like suspension or dismissal, on your record may prevent you from attending another school and entering certain professions. A dismissal can cause unsuspected upheaval when you lose your housing, healthcare, career, and friends. Moreover, student loans are due once you are no longer attending school.

Consequences of Criminal Charges Against University Students

Facing the criminal justice system on top of school discipline can be overwhelming. A criminal conviction on your record may jeopardize your future career and professional licensing. Depending on the type of crime, you may be barred from working in various fields. For example, fraud convictions can eliminate multiple jobs in finance and other fiduciary positions. Worse, a conviction may result in incarceration and monetary fines that can set you back for years while you also pay off student loans.

Different Procedural Elements of Disciplinary and Criminal Cases Against College Students

While New Jersey law and the Constitution dictate what occurs in criminal courts, college and university officials may proceed immediately with disciplinary action, wait until the outcome of the criminal proceedings, or combine both. The severity of the criminal charges may determine school action. For example, violent or sexual crimes may warrant suspension with restrictions to campus access while awaiting the criminal outcome.

Each campus has its proceedings and procedures, which they follow to reach a final determination, whether suspension, dismissal, probation, or something else. Before a final decision, however, campus disciplinary administrators conduct investigations into accusations, including interviews, statements, and electronic and documentary evidence reviews.

An informal resolution may be the first approach, but barring a confession, the school may continue disciplinary proceedings with formal hearings. There, an impartial decision-maker or panel reviews the evidence against the student and allows the student to present rebuttal and cross-examination evidence. Typically, a student may appeal the decision after a decision.

While school discipline may be swift, prosecution may be slower. After an arrest, a student charged with crimes may wait weeks or months for their trial. During that time, pretrial procedures require prosecutors and defendants to prepare for trial by exchanging discovery, meaning evidence the prosecutor must support charges and convict the defendant. There may be several opportunities to update the court on the case’s progress toward resolution before trial, like dismissal, probation, community service, or diversion.

Formal hearings that require a defendant’s appearance in court include the arraignment soon after arrest, where the defendant answers their plea to the charges read by a judge. There, the judge ensures the defendant knows their constitutional rights and determines whether the defendant is released or remains in jail until trial. The pre-trial period allows the defendant to assess the prosecution’s case and file a motion to dismiss if it is weak or bargain for a more advantageous sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.

Let our Mount Holly College Student Defense Lawyers Protect Your Rights and Interests

Fortunately, you can hire an attorney well-versed in criminal and college and university laws, procedures, and practices. While you may know your right to an attorney in criminal court, you may not know you can hire an attorney for school disciplinary proceedings as well. By first discussing your matter with an experienced college student defense attorney, you can understand how a knowledgeable and skilled lawyer can protect you against unjust practices in both arenas.

At Proetta, Oliver, and Fay, our criminal defense attorneys can help you resolve your criminal and school charges throughout the legal and university investigation and prosecution. We can determine how best to defend you in both institutions, the courts and schools, to preserve your future. Contact a criminal and school defense attorney at our Evesham Township, Burlington County, NJ office to discuss your campus criminal charges today. Our team will provide you with a free and confidential consultation at 609-850-8284.

Contact Us

Our phones are answered 24 hours a day. We are available weekdays during business hours. We also meet with clients on evenings and weekends by request. We have four office locations conveniently located in Jersey City, Edison, Middletown, Cranford, Burlington, and Hamilton. All major credit cards are accepted.

Burlington Office

525 Highway 73,
Suite 104, Marlton,
New Jersey 08053
Phone: 609-850-8284
By Appointment Only

Hamilton Office

100 Horizon Center
Boulevard, Hamilton,
New Jersey, 08691
By Appointment Only

Point Pleasant Office

3828 River Road,
Suite A, Point Pleasant,
New Jersey 08742
By Appointment Only

Middletown Office

180 Kings Highway,
Middletown Township,
New Jersey 07748
By Appointment Only