What College Students Should Expect if Charged with a Crime in PA | Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC

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What College Students Should Expect if Charged with a Crime in PA

PA universities, colleges, and technical institutes are remarkable centers of learning. But sometimes, college students learn lessons the hard way if they are arrested or charged with a crime.

In mild scenarios, these charges could translate to a warning from the police and the school’s disciplinary committee. In worst-case scenarios, you could be looking at expulsion and time behind bars.

Criminal Charges Involving College Students

A review of the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system shows that in 2022 and 2023, there were 8,972 offense counts in 23 higher institutions in Pennsylvania, out of which 1,617 campus arrests were made.

Offenses that Get College Students Arrested

Beyond the UCR insights, some other common offenses in student communities include DUIs, sexual assault, drug-related crimes, and domestic violence.

The Rights of Students Facing Charges in PA

For many students, being arrested on campus, whether by campus or district police, is their first significant interaction with the law. As someone unfamiliar with the legal system, the first response to these interactions is usually a sense of defeat and panic.

But remember that certain laws endow you with rights that protect you when faced with criminal charges that may devolve into university arrests. They include:

  • The right to remain silent: No matter how false the accusations might be, how incensed you are, or how intrusively an officer prods you, you have the right to remain silent. Whatever you say to retort or defend yourself could be used against you.
  • The right to an attorney: For better legal representation for college students arrested, you can request an attorney to be present during all your interactions with the police and the criminal process.
  • The right to a fair trial: This is a fundamental right for any student facing criminal accusation.

Can the police search your dorm?

The Fourth Amendment protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures. However, an arrest warrant, exigent circumstances, and the terms of your dorm contract could allow the police to search your dorm.

Will I be expelled for being arrested?

The chances of being expelled depend on the severity of the crime you were arrested for. With cases of serious criminal offenses that mar an institution’s reputation, your university may do everything it can to dissociate itself from you—and that could mean immediate expulsion.

Will I still be able to get financial aid?

Getting any form of financial aid becomes difficult, especially if you were involved in university arrests relating to violent crimes, drug-related offenses, and sexual offenses. This doesn’t mean that you will never be able to get financial aid.

Can I still qualify for student housing after battling student legal issues?

Your housing application would likely be thrown out immediately with severe criminal cases. Misdemeanors may not result in outright rejection; they may attract extra supervision from the campus police or dorm supervisor.

Generally, an arrest record affects several areas of a student’s life, from a decline in academic performance due to stress and trauma to dampened future career prospects due to your record.

The Role of University Disciplinary Hearings

With offenses involving student conduct violations, a university disciplinary hearing is a strong possibility. These hearings are necessary to determine the standing of college students arrested for whatever reason and how the offense affects the school’s reputation.

Can I Have a Lawyer for Discipline Hearings?

Many students with college arrest records think that because disciplinary hearings happen outside the courtroom, they don’t need attorneys during college disciplinary action processes. But there is a lot a lawyer can do to improve your situation and presentation during such a hearing.

It is one of your rights to get legal representation during disciplinary hearings, especially one seasoned at providing legal advice for college students. Bear in mind that the direction of these hearings—although often claimed to be of independent investigations by the hearing committee—are sometimes driven by decisions reached at the criminal justice system.

The University Discipline Process

Depending on the school or offenses, your disciplinary hearing process will typically involve the following:

  • Receiving a notice letter from the disciplinary committee
  • Investigations by the committee
  • Review of evidence and decision-making
  • Issuing of the outcome letter
  • Case resolution – warning, reprimand, suspension, probation, or expulsion if found responsible. It could also be in the form of formal agreements or community service.

Strategies & Defenses for College Charges

The legal strategies and tactics used by criminal defense lawyers for arrested college students are not so different from those used for every other individual outside the school system. Understandably, there are nuances to consider depending on the crime the student was accused of, the governing laws in the city/county, and other relevant implications across the board.

Standard strategies include:

  • The duress defense: A defense strategy employed for students whose involvement in a crime was a result of reasonable apprehension that inaction could lead to their death, death of another person, or some serious bodily injury.
  • Self-defense: A strategy used to prove that the accused student acted in response to being attacked.
  • The necessity defense: Here, the attorney proves that the accused had to do what they did due to the exceptional nature of the prevailing circumstance.

Beyond these, an attorney may exploit existing diversion programs—especially if the accused student is a first-time offender—to avoid the negative impacts of formal processing on the student. Although not always advisable, an attorney may encourage the accused student to enter a plea agreement and avoid graver charges.

Finding an Attorney for College-Related Charges

Whether you are involved in a misdemeanor or a serious criminal offense or accusation, it is of utmost necessity to have a seasoned attorney beside you at every step. Some things to consider when looking for an attorney include the following:

  • The extent of their experience handling university arrests and campus arrests.
  • Their success rates
  • Reviews from past clients
  • Availability and accessibility
  • Experience in successfully seeing cases through trials—not just plea bargains.

Most importantly, always go for an attorney with vast experience representing college students. They have a wealth of knowledge to help you navigate nuances and technicalities that offer some advantages to student offenders.

Contact Worgul, Sarna & Ness for Help

Wondering what to do if a college student is arrested? Do you need an attorney with verifiable experience and a high success rate handling DUI charges for university students? Are you troubled by your record of campus drug arrests and the consequences attached to it?

At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, we’ve been helping college students, their families, and anyone accused of crime in Pittsburgh for over a decade.  We have over 300 5-star reviews, multiple awards, and the results to show for it.

We have helped hundreds of students with successful criminal defense against DUI, assault, drug, theft, and violent crime charges. We have also helped students obtain professional licenses despite their records.

Call (412) 281-2146 today for a free case review.

Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney Review

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“I hired the firm not knowing what to expect, but once I talked to Mr Ness during my consultation he was professional and honest with me. He introduced me to the partner who took my case, Mr Sarna, who is hands-down and very good attorney and person. He was always there for me and always answered my questions. What was most important of all is that they deliver and give great results. If you are in a bind and need to catch a break from something unfortunate, hire this firm, they’ll help you out.”

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