Montgomery County is home to nine colleges, and several other campuses of larger institutions based elsewhere in Pennsylvania. College is a learning experience, however, not all learning takes place in the classroom. For many students going away to college is their first time being on their own without parental supervision, and they must learn to make their own decisions without guidance. This can sometimes cause students to get into trouble with their college, and in the more serious cases, the law.
Student Defense in Montgomery County
When a student is involved in an alleged criminal incident, they often encounter charges across two different areas: their college or university, and the law. Many times these two institutions will work together in order to bring actions against the student. This can come in the form of the academic institution reporting a student's actions to law enforcement, or vice versa. In addition to this, a student who is "not guilty" of a crime, can still be considered to have acted in violation of a university or college's policy and guidelines, as the law and an academic policy are separate codes. In criminal cases, a student should have an attorney guiding them through the justice system, however, at times, university or college proceedings may allow them an attorney as well. This can strongly influence the outcome of the case, on both fronts.
Common Criminal Charges for Students in Montgomery County
While students can face several different types of criminal offenses in a college environment, there are some that are more common than others, due to the nature of the environment. Some common criminal charges can include:
- Underage Drinking: During their higher education, students may frequently get involved in situations involving underage drinking. These incidents may not always lead to criminal charges, however, the college will frequently take action against the student under its disciplinary policy.
- Hazing: Fraternity and sorority organizations on college campuses are known for their rigorous and challenging entrance ceremonies. Greek life organizations are often accused of hazing. Hazing accusations are rarely criminal, however, serious allegations may result in the dissolution of the organization.
- Harassment: Harassment can come in several forms. Sexual harassment, stalking, and internet harassment are common charges on college campuses and can result in both criminal charges and administrative actions from the college. At times, some harassment may fall under the academic institution's Title IX policy, which will carry much more severe penalties.
- Fake I.D. Possession: The possession of false identifying documentation is a crime. While many bars and liquor stores will simply confiscate and dispose of a fake I.D., if the document is presented to an officer, criminal charges are certain to follow. If a college official is notified, the institution may also take action against a student.
- Sex Crimes: Sex crimes such as sexual assault, rape, and similar acts not only constitute crimes but also violations of college Title IX codes. Colleges nationwide are subject to the federal law to hold a separate Title IX code that specifically outlines the institution's actions for sexual misconduct instances. These types of allegations often carry consequences of suspension or expulsion from academic institutions, in addition to the criminal charges.
- Drug Crimes: Possession and use of drugs on a college campus can result in both criminal charges and administrative action from the college authorities. Getting caught with drugs may result in a student's loss of housing or other dire consequences.
- Theft and Property Crimes: Because students often carry around expensive things such as laptops or phones, theft is a commonly seen crime on campus. Criminal charges of theft may be reported to a student's academic institution, and the student may face ramifications on both the criminal and institutional fronts. Property crimes can also include vandalism and damage to property, which both the university and the state may hold a student responsible for.
- Weapons Possession: A vast majority of colleges do not allow a person to possess a weapon on their campuses. Whether the weapon is a firearm or a utility knife, the mere possession of these items are often grounds for legal and administrative action. Doing so is often a violation of university policy, and in certain jurisdictions, potentially a violation of the law.
- Violent Crimes: Violent crime can include a number of actions. Actions such as assault, fighting, resisting arrest or obstruction of justice constitute crimes and may also lead to a student's suspension or expulsion.
Many of these charges are either more heavily weighted as a criminal offense or more geared toward violation of University policy, however, there is always the possibility of a student facing both at once. The consequences of an unfavorable outcome in either of these situations can throw a student's goals for education or career advancement into jeopardy. Colleges often work directly with police to oust students who are accused of causing problems within the campus.
Montgomery County Criminal Charges and How Your College or University Will Respond
Criminal charges against Montgomery County college students will often result in disciplinary proceedings at the school level. The following links provide specific information as to the respective Montgomery County schools' Code of Conduct disciplinary procedures when students are accused of conduct that may result in criminal charges, or did in fact result in criminal charges:
- Arcadia University Disciplinary Charge
- Bryn Mawr College Disciplinary Charge
- Gwynedd Mercy University Disciplinary Charge
- Harcum College Disciplinary Charge
- Haverford College Disciplinary Charge
- Penn State - Abington Disciplinary Charge
- Rosemont College Disciplinary Charge
- Ursinus College Disciplinary Charge
The following links provide information regarding how individual Montgomery County colleges and universities handle allegations of sexual assault and Title IX sexual misconduct against students:
- Arcadia University Sexual Assault Charge
- Bryn Mawr College Sexual Assault Charge
- Gwynedd Mercy University Sexual Assault Charge
- Harcum College Sexual Assault Charge
- Haverford College Sexual Assault Charge
- Penn State - Abington Sexual Assault Charge
- Rosemont College Sexual Charge
- Ursinus College Sexual Assault Charge
Criminal charges may be filed before a student's college or university initiates disciplinary proceedings against the student, or they may be filed after such proceedings have started or even concluded. Because the risk of criminal exposure as well as potential civil liability can be so great, a Montgomery County student and his or her family, regardless of whether the student is facing criminal charges that have already been filed or the prospect of criminal charges, must make sure the student's interests are protected both in the criminal forum and at the school level.
Montgomery County Student Defense Attorney
Both in and out of the courtroom, the services of a skilled and experienced defense attorney can strongly influence the outcome of a difficult situation. Joseph D. Lento has had extensive experience defending both criminal charges and student disciplinary hearings. If you or your student is currently facing criminal charges, or disciplinary action from an academic institution, contact us today.