Getting into college is something you should be extremely proud of. You have taken all the necessary tests, sacrificed your social life, and worked very hard to achieve the future you are dreaming of. Unfortunately, most students are so focused on making new friends in school, getting good grades, and enjoying their first taste of freedom and responsibility that they may begin to act in ways they normally would not. If you are accused of making internet threats, local law enforcement and your university will share any evidence they have. Meaning you could be facing both college disciplinary charges and criminal charges.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and Lento Law Firm have unmatched experience and compassion for what you are going through. Additionally, they understand how important it is to create a strong defense that will mitigate any punishments you might face – both by your university and in court. You deserve to continue to pursue your dreams for the future. Call Lento Law Firm today.
Crime Detection on Pennsylvania Campuses
Campuses are notorious for criminal activity, as such colleges and universities in Pennsylvania take campus security very seriously. There are not only security cameras monitoring the entrances and exits of buildings, but cameras on each floor and hallway monitoring the comings and goings of anyone on campus. There are also cameras perched around campus doing the same, and campus security or police are always patrolling the campus.
Additionally, most college campuses are peppered with emergency blue light boxes which are connected to a call center. When someone picks up the phone, the call center immediately answers and will be able to identify where the call is coming from if the caller cannot speak. Students can request escorts, report suspicious activity, or report a crime using one of these telephone boxes.
Campus security allows the university to create a safe space for students to pursue their education. If a student is caught, or accused of, sending internet threats, any information gathered from campus security is shared with local law enforcement and can be used as evidence in either a court proceeding or a disciplinary action. Students must be overly prepared to defend themselves from all types of evidence that might be available.
Pennsylvania Internet Threat Crimes
In Pennsylvania, there are several types of internet crimes, including:
- Impersonating another person online
- Identity theft
- Investment scams
- Credit card theft
- Child solicitation
- Computer theft or trespass
But cyber harassment is the most common type of internet crime and includes such actions as:
- Cyberbullying: using the internet or other electronic communications to bully a minor.
- Cyberstalking: using electronic communications or the internet to harass or intimidate another person. Usually, the person doing the stalking tracks the other person's location or monitors their behavior in some way. It can also include trolling and sending threatening messages over text, e-mail, or social media.
- Doxxing: releasing or broadcasting someone's personal, identifiable information in order to harm them, have others harm them, or for some other malevolent intention.
- Swatting: deceiving law enforcement by making a false report to emergency services and compelling them to respond to another person's address. Examples include false bomb reports or hostage situations.
- Sextortion: making a threat to release someone else's explicit images or media unless they pay a ransom of some kind.
- Extortion: making a threat to do something (committing a criminal offense, releasing property, accusing someone of a criminal offense, exposing compromising information, etc.) unless the other person pays a ransom of some kind.
- Revenge pornography: distributing sexually explicit images of someone without their consent.
In Pennsylvania, if a person is convicted of cyber harassment, it is, at the least, considered a third-degree misdemeanor and subject to a maximum one-year sentence in jail and fines of up to $2,500. The degree of the crime, and the subsequent punishment, are highly dependent on the severity of the crime. For instance, a first-time offender of cyberstalking can be subjected to up to five years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.
Online harassment is charged when a person engages in conduct using the internet (or e-mail) that is supposed to harass or annoy another person. It is considered a third-degree misdemeanor and is subject to up to one year in jail and fines of up to $2,500.
Internet Threats on Pennsylvania College Campuses
All Pennsylvania colleges and universities have specific ways of dealing with internet threats, but they all agree that students who are accused of committing such a crime on campus should be fully investigated and, if necessary, punished appropriately for the behavior. They also believe that the information should be shared with local law enforcement.
At Temple University, students are given a student handbook at the beginning of each year. The student handbook outlines the exact conduct that is expected of their students. It specifically states that students must refrain from conduct or electronic communications which cause severe or persistent distress by:
- Repeatedly communicating the student knows or should know they are unwanted;
- Where the student acts with the intent to harass; or
- Violates the University Policy on Preventing and Addressing Discrimination and Harassment.
If a student violates their code of conduct, they will be subject to disciplinary actions.
False Reports of Internet Threats on Pennsylvania College Campuses
Both law enforcement and the college administration are dedicated to creating safe communities for students. As such, if a student is accused of an internet threat on campus, both law enforcement and the campus disciplinary committees will get involved in order to provide justice for the victims. But if they find out that someone has made a false report of the internet threat, they will quickly and succinctly adjudicate that student.
This is especially true when law enforcement gets involved and starts using resources paid for by local taxpayers. They will charge the false reporter with the crime of false incrimination to prevent the further unnecessary use of taxpayer dollars.
Defending Pennsylvania Internet Threat Crime Charges
If a student is charged with making internet threats by law enforcement officials, a student criminal defense attorney is their best bet to ensure they are not subject to unnecessary punishments.
In order to prove a student has committed an internet threat or online harassment, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the evidence they are presenting can only lead to the conclusion that the student is guilty. That is, if they are unable to convince the court that there is no other reason for the evidence, the student cannot be found guilty of online harassment or internet threats.
Your defense team will review the prosecution's arguments and the evidence or witness testimony they intend to bring in court and poke holes in the argument to show there are alternatives to the reason the evidence exists.
For instance, if the prosecution is using text message logs to prove you harassed someone, your defense team will search the metadata of the text logs to show that they did not come from your phone, which may prove that someone was impersonating you when making those harassing statements. And therefore, you are not guilty of the crime accused.
Attorney Lento and Lento Law Firm are experienced criminal defense attorneys who understand the complexities of an internet threats case. They are keenly aware of the burden placed on the prosecution and will work tirelessly to find other avenues for evidence. Without an attorney, you could be subjected to harsher penalties, higher fines, and long-term consequences like probation or reputation harm. Working with Attorney Lento doesn't just mean the difference between receiving an innocent or guilty verdict; it means the difference between continuing to pursue the future of your dreams and having to face the ramifications of these allegations for the rest of your life.
Pennsylvania Campus Internet Threats Disciplinary Procedures
The specifics of the disciplinary proceedings for internet threats will differ depending on the college or university the complaint was made from.
At Penn State University, students accused of online harassment or internet threats will be notified and interviewed by the university. When the interview ends, the university official in charge will decide whether to proceed with a formal investigation and hearing or dismiss the complaint altogether. If a formal investigation is necessary, the student will be notified of a specific place and time to hear the charges against them, review the university's investigation report, and present evidence and witnesses to defend themselves.
Penn State University's disciplinary committee will review all the evidence and testimony presented by the university representative, complainant, and defending student to determine if the student is responsible for committing an internet threat or online harassment. They will also determine what sanctions should be imposed.
Possible sanctions might include one or more of the following:
- Conduct warnings
- Conduct probation
- Termination of the housing contract
- Educational or reflective sanctions
Alternatively, the University of Pennsylvania's Office of Student Conduct (OSC), once made aware of the complaint, will attempt to resolve the issue with informal mediation. If they decide informal mediation is not appropriate or it does not work, the OSC will begin a formal investigation into the complaint. During this investigation, the OSC will decide if a disciplinary hearing is necessary. If so, they will immediately notify the student of the time and place.
Just like at Penn State University, the disciplinary hearing at the University of Pennsylvania will give the accused student a chance to present witness testimony and evidence to prove they are not responsible for committing online harassment or internet threats. The Hearing Panel at the University of Pennsylvania will review the information presented by the university representative, complainant, and defending student and decide if there is enough evidence to prove that the student is responsible for making internet threats or committing online harassment. They will also determine what sanctions are appropriate. Sanctions at the University of Pennsylvania can range from anything like a warning or reprimand to a suspension or expulsion. The harshness of the punishment will depend greatly on the gravity of the internet threat made or online harassment committed.
Both universities provide students with the opportunity to appeal their disciplinary hearing decisions. At Penn State University, appeals must be made within five business days of getting the hearing committee's decision letter and must only be made on at least one of the following grounds:
- A procedural irregularity, including bias, was present and significantly affected the outcome of the case.
- The sanction imposed was not appropriate.
- There is new information available that will change the outcome of the case, and it was not available during the hearing.
At the University of Pennsylvania, though, you have ten days to submit your appeal, and the Hearing Panel's decision letter will outline the specific grounds you must make it on.
It can be incredibly overwhelming to face on-campus disciplinary proceedings, especially if you are also facing criminal charges at the same time. When this happens, many students decide not to prepare properly for the on-campus hearings, thinking they hold less weight than criminal charges. The reality is both proceedings hold an incredible amount of weight and potential consequences. A student criminal defense attorney can help shoulder this burden.
How a Qualified Student Defense Attorney Can Help
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and Lento Law Firm have unparalleled experience helping students overcome online harassment and internet threat charges, both on and off campus. They will ensure both the university and the court uphold your due process rights, including your right to be represented by an experienced attorney. With Attorney Lento's help, you will be sufficiently prepared to weather both storms. Call 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation today or visit us online.