College Student Criminal Defense in Pennsylvania

Detecting Crime on Pennsylvania College Campuses

Students don't go to college or a university in Pennsylvania expecting to face criminal charges. But bad things can happen on a Pennsylvania college or university campus just like they can happen elsewhere. Indeed, colleges and universities closely monitor student behavior, more closely than homes, workplaces, and other locations and communities monitor conduct. Instructors, teaching and research assistants, dormitory resident assistants, student affairs officials, custodial and maintenance staff, and campus police are all on the lookout for misconduct, especially when it implicates crime. Surveillance cameras and security systems to detect criminal behavior can be everywhere across campus, in public and private places, fulfilling public law and private commitments to maintain a safe campus community. Your chances of getting charged for alleged criminal misbehavior, whether underage drinking, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, drug possession or distribution, assault and battery, sexual assault, cyberstalking and other computer crimes, vandalism, trespass, false identification, or other crimes, can be far greater on a Pennsylvania college campus than off campus.

Facing Pennsylvania Criminal Charges and School Discipline

When a Pennsylvania college or university suspects crime on its campus, the risk is more than just criminal charges. Students whom their school suspects have committed a crime on campus, relating to school activities, or endangering the school community may also face school disciplinary charges. Criminal charges can be serious, bringing fines, jail time, and collateral consequences like job loss and loss of licenses and reputation. But school discipline can also be serious. Indeed, school discipline can cost a student more than criminal charges. School discipline can threaten the student's education, graduation, and career, accelerate student loans, and cause the student to lose housing, transportation, medical care, family and friend support, and mentor relationships. If you face both criminal charges and school discipline in Pennsylvania, retain Pennsylvania's premier school discipline criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento. Having successfully represented hundreds of college and university students against misconduct charges, Attorney Lento has the substantial skills and experience in both criminal defense and school discipline defense you need for a winning outcome.

Common Pennsylvania Campus Crimes

Pennsylvania laws apply both on and off college and university campuses. Colleges and universities have their own student conduct codes and may also have their own police forces. But the criminal code that applies to Pennsylvanians off campus also applies to students on campus. On-campus misconduct can result in criminal charges in an off-campus criminal court. Common Pennsylvania crimes with which public prosecutors commonly charge students for on-campus misconduct and schools may also discipline the student include the following:

Underage Drinking and Smoking on Pennsylvania College Campuses

Under Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 6308, you must be twenty-one years old to purchase, consume, possess, or transport alcoholic beverages in Pennsylvania. Minor in possession of alcohol, known as an MIP and among the most common campus crimes, carries a $500 fine for a first offense and a $1,000 fine for a second offense and requires parent notification. Even if you are age twenty-one and can drink legally, you can still face criminal charges under Section 6310 for inducing a minor to purchase alcohol. Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 6305(a.1) similarly prohibits underage smoking or other use of a tobacco product, including the use of a vaping device with any substance. Pennsylvania colleges and universities vary in the degree to which they will enforce dry, smoke-free campuses.

Disorderly Conduct on Pennsylvania College Campuses

Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 5503 criminalizes disorderly conduct, defined to include intentionally causing “public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof” by fighting, threatening, or tumultuous behavior, unreasonable noise, obscene language or gesture, or creating hazardous or physically offensive conditions by acts serving no legitimate purpose. Similarly, Section 5505 criminalizes public intoxication, including not just drunkenness but also conduct under the influence of other substances that endangers or annoys others. Pennsylvania colleges and universities generally do not tolerate fighting, rioting, or other disruptive behavior.

Assault and Battery on Pennsylvania College Campuses

Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 2701 and the following sections criminalize simple assault, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment, terroristic threats, harassment, stalking, and other violent crimes or crimes threatening violence. Other Pennsylvania laws criminalize sexual assault and other sexual misconduct. Sections 3124.1 and 3124.2, for instance, criminalize sexual assault and sexual assault on a minor. Similarly, Section 3121 criminalizes rape, Section 3122.1 criminalizes statutory sexual assault, Section 3123 criminalizes involuntary deviant sexual intercourse, and Section 3125 criminalizes aggravated indecent assault. Pennsylvania colleges and universities tend to treat most harshly any conduct physically harming or threatening to harm any member of the campus community. Federal Title IX law and regulation requires federally funded schools to prevent and punish certain forms of sexual misconduct, making aggressive enforcement against those crimes especially likely.

Stalking and Cyberstalking on Pennsylvania College Campuses

Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 2709, a general harassment statute, criminalizes both stalking and cyberstalking. Stalking covers a wide variety of misbehaviors that harass, annoy, or alarm the victim, including physical contact or threats of physical contact, following, communicating repeatedly, or other repeated acts that have no legitimate purpose. Misusing a computer or other electronic device in these ways can constitute a general harassment crime. Pennsylvania colleges and universities generally do not tolerate any stalking behavior that interferes with any student's access to the educational program.

Drug Offenses on Pennsylvania College Campuses

Pennsylvania heavily regulates controlled substances, much like other jurisdictions. Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 7508, for instance, provides penalties for illegal drug possession and trafficking. Pennsylvania's drug laws also include provisions having to do with persons under age twenty-one or on college or university campuses. Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 6314, for example, prohibits possessing drugs with the intent to deliver them to minors. Pennsylvania's drug-free school zone statute, Section 6317, increases the penalty for drug offenses on college or university campuses to a minimum of two years of confinement. Pennsylvania colleges and universities tend to take drug offenses quite seriously because of the health, safety, and reputational risks.

Vandalism and Trespass on Pennsylvania College Campuses

Pennsylvania's criminal mischief statute Section 3304 criminalizes vandalism and other forms of defacing, tampering with, or damaging property. Section 3503 criminalizes trespass, including any entry onto property without permission. Pennsylvania colleges and universities routinely punish property destruction and property misuse crimes.

False Identification on Pennsylvania College Campuses

Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 6310.3 prohibits a person under age twenty-one from carrying a false identification card suggesting the minor is age twenty-one or older. The same section prohibits a minor from using the identification of another person who is age twenty-one to attempt to obtain alcohol. Misrepresenting your age to obtain alcohol adds a Section 6307 third-degree misdemeanor offense to the charges. Pennsylvania colleges and universities treat school and other public identification as an important security issue, routinely pursuing enforcement actions as identification misuse crimes.

Pennsylvania Criminal Process

Fortunately, Pennsylvania law provides substantial protective procedures to challenge criminal charges arising out of conduct on a Pennsylvania college or university campus. With skilled and experienced defense attorney representation, you may be able to defend and defeat the criminal charges while also avoiding school discipline. Consider the following protective procedures.

Burden of Proof in Pennsylvania Criminal Proceedings

Constitutional law generally requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt to convict of a crime carrying significant punishment. The Pennsylvania prosecutor pursuing criminal charges has a high burden of proof to meet, giving your retained criminal defense attorney substantial opportunities to defend and defeat the charges. Beating the criminal charge is critical to avoiding school discipline. Your college or university is very likely to use criminal conviction as the basis for school discipline, without allowing you to challenge the conviction through additional school procedures. Schools may generally discipline on lesser proof, such as by a preponderance of the evidence. Beat the criminal charge to save your Pennsylvania college or university education.

Pretrial Procedures in Pennsylvania Criminal Proceedings

Pretrial procedures give your retained criminal defense attorney more opportunity to successfully defend and defeat the criminal charges. Pennsylvania pretrial procedures generally begin with an arraignment at which you learn of the charges, ensure your release, and retain a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. Your retained attorney may then invoke preliminary examination procedures to challenge whether the prosecution has evidence that you may have committed the charged crime. Pretrial procedures also ensure that the prosecution discloses exonerating evidence. Your retained attorney may also file motions to exclude evidence and dismiss the charges. Pretrial procedures may also result in the diversion of your matter out of the criminal court, giving you the chance to avoid further criminal proceedings and conviction. Your retained criminal defense attorney may also negotiate a plea bargain and dismissal.

Trial and Post-Trial Procedures in Pennsylvania Criminal Proceedings

Trial and post-trial procedures give your retained criminal defense attorney additional defense opportunities. Your retained attorney may cross-examine the prosecution's witnesses, move to dismiss the charges after the prosecution's case, present your own evidence in defense, and advocate for a verdict in your favor. Post-trial relief may also be available by motion or appeal. Aggressive and effective criminal defense representation can make the difference. Retain Pennsylvania's premier school discipline criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento for your best criminal case outcome.

School Disciplinary Procedures

Your college or university may wait for criminal proceedings to conclude before determining whether and how to proceed with school disciplinary charges. No matter the outcome of the criminal case, though, school disciplinary officials may pursue disciplinary charges within the college or university. Disciplinary charges within the school are especially likely if the matter involves allegations of Title IX sexual misconduct. For the best outcome to those disciplinary charges, you need skilled and experienced school discipline defense representation. School discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has successfully defended hundreds of college and university students against school disciplinary charges, including charges relating to alleged criminal misconduct. Attorney Lento can help you invoke the following disciplinary procedures at your Pennsylvania college or university for the best outcome.

Pennsylvania College or University Investigation Procedures

Pennsylvania colleges and universities typically investigate disciplinary matters through an office of student affairs. School disciplinary officials receive complaints from students, instructors, other staff members, and police or campus security. Those officials then typically interview the victim and other witnesses and review documentation before notifying the accused student of the charge. Disciplinary officials often request the accused student's interview. The officials may then offer an informal resolution, often trying to get the accused student to admit the charged misconduct so that the school may impose discipline without further procedures. Do not submit to an interview, attend an informal resolution conference, or admit to misconduct without first retaining and consulting a skilled and experienced school discipline defense attorney. You may be giving away your education and future.

Pennsylvania College or University Formal Procedures

Pennsylvania colleges and universities routinely offer formal procedures for matters that do not resolve informally. Your college or university may offer you a hearing at which you can testify, have other witnesses testify on your behalf, and cross-examine adverse witnesses. You may also have a right to appeal adverse findings. Do not attempt to represent yourself at a hearing or in an appeal. Instead, retain a skilled and experienced school discipline defense attorney for the best result. Retain premier school discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento even if you have already lost your hearing or appeal. Attorney Lento may be able to obtain special alternative relief for you through your school's oversight channels.

Retain a Premier Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the perfect combination of Pennsylvania criminal defense skills and experience and school discipline defense experience in hundreds of cases to provide you with winning defense services. Retain a premier attorney who has both the criminal defense and school discipline defense experience you need to preserve your Pennsylvania college or university education. Your future is worth it. Call 888.535.3686 or go online to retain attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm's Pennsylvania criminal defense team. Attorney Lento's premier Pennsylvania criminal defense services are available now.

Contact Us Today!

Attorney Joseph D. Lento has more than a decade of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the Lento Law Firm today! Criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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