Pennsylvania colleges and universities offer students some of the finest educational opportunities available worldwide. Private schools like Saint Joseph's, Temple, Drexel, La Salle, and Villanova, and public universities like the campuses of Penn State and the University of Pennsylvania, include top-ranked undergraduate and graduate programs and offer graduating students large networks of highly successful alumni. But to protect program reputation and ensure program integrity, Pennsylvania colleges and universities must protect student safety against crime, fire, and similar hazards. And when one of the school's own students is the cause of that hazard, the college or university will pursue disciplinary charges to suspend or dismiss the endangering student. The student who commits safety and fire violations may also face criminal charges public prosecutors pursue in the local criminal courts. Premier Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team are available for your best defense if you face criminal charges, school discipline, or both relating to safety and fire violations. Don't risk your Pennsylvania college or university education. Get the skilled and experienced help you need in both criminal court and school disciplinary proceedings.
Federal Campus Safety Obligations
Pennsylvania colleges and universities take safety and fire violations seriously. They must do so under federal laws mandating prompt public safety notices and comprehensive reports. The federal Jeanne Clery Act requires colleges and universities receiving federal funding to report campus crime data, notify of present safety emergencies, and publish campus safety policies and procedures. Penn State University's annual security reports and the University of Pennsylvania's annual security and fire safety reports are examples of Clery reporting. To meet their federal Clery Act safety obligations and to carry out their other moral and legal duties to protect people's safety, Pennsylvania colleges and universities adopt student codes of conduct that prohibit students from engaging in safety and fire violations and similar endangering behavior. Consider these examples:
- Penn State University publishes a Student Code of Conduct that prohibits any conduct that endangers the health or safety of another person. Penn State's prohibition includes “tampering with firefighting equipment or smoke detectors, causing a false alarm, or any other behavior [that] endangers the health or safety of others.” Penn State's code also extends similar protection to persons off campus whose safety a student threatens;
- Villanova University publishes a Code of Student Conduct that prohibits any practice that endangers the health, safety, well-being, or property of a member of the university community. Villanova's code also prohibits tampering with fire alarms or firefighting equipment, setting off false alarms, propping open fire protection doors, and failing to evacuate during an alarm;
- Temple University publishes a Student Conduct Code that expressly prohibits students from bringing onto campus any article or substance, including chemicals, explosives, fireworks, and the like, that could endanger any person. Temple's code permits the university to impose interim measures barring the student from campus while the university investigates allegations of endangering behavior; and
- Drexel University publishes a Code of Conduct that sets forth a Fire Safety policy prohibiting tampering with fire alarms or equipment, setting unauthorized fires, making false fire safety reports, or setting off false alarms, and possessing dangerous items or substances that may ignite. Drexel's code also prohibits student conduct that places another in reasonable fear for safety.
Pennsylvania Safety and Fire Criminal Charges
Public prosecutors may file criminal charges in the local courts against students engaging in endangering behaviors or fire safety violations on Pennsylvania college and university campuses. Your Pennsylvania college or university may pursue school discipline in a school proceeding whether you face criminal charges or not. Penn State's Student Code of Conduct, for instance, states, “Proceedings under the Code are separate from civil or criminal proceedings and may, at the discretion of the Senior Director, be carried out prior to, simultaneously with, or following civil or criminal proceedings.” Criminal charges could trigger or aggravate a school proceeding. Pennsylvania colleges and universities also often include violations of state criminal laws as another form of school misconduct. Penn State's Student Code of Conduct, for instance, prohibits student behavior that “constitutes a violation of local, state, or federal law.” Retain Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento to help you defend and defeat the following Pennsylvania safety and fire crimes and related school charges.
Arson Endangering Persons
Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 3301(a) criminalizes as a first-degree felony intentionally starting a fire or causing an explosion, or inducing another to do so, that recklessly places another in danger of death or bodily injury, including a firefighter or police officer or that purposely destroys or damages an occupied structure. A first-degree felony carries a sentence of up to twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
Arson Damaging Structures
Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 3301(c) criminalizes as a second-degree felony intentionally starting a fire or causing an explosion or inducing another to do so that recklessly damages or destroys an unoccupied structure or damages a vehicle, or damages personal property worth more than $5,000. A second-degree felony carries a sentence of up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
Reckless Burning or Exploding
Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 3301(d) criminalizes as a third-degree felony intentionally starting a fire or causing an explosion, or inducing another to do so, that recklessly exposes an unoccupied structure to damage or destruction or threatens damage to a vehicle or to personal property worth more than $5,000. A third-degree felony carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 3301(d.1) criminalizes, as a summary offense, intentionally starting a fire that endangers a person or threatens damage to property of any value. A summary offense carries a sentence of up to ninety days in jail and a fine of up to $250.
Failure to Control or Report Fire
Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 3301(e) criminalizes as a first-degree misdemeanor, failing to take reasonable measures to put out, control, or report a fire that the person set when the person can do so without substantial risk to the person. A summary offense carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $1,500.
Possession of Incendiary Material
Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 3301(f) criminalizes as a third-degree felony possession of incendiary material or explosive device intended to commit any of the above offenses. A third-degree felony offense carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 3302 criminalizes as a first-degree felony causing a catastrophe by explosion, fire, flood, building collapse, the release of gas, radioactive material, or other harmful or destructive force or substance, or by any other means of causing potentially widespread injury or damage. A first-degree felony carries a sentence of up to twenty years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000.
Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 3304 criminalizes as a third-degree felony damaging another's property intentionally, recklessly, or negligently using fire, explosives, or other dangerous means, or intentionally or recklessly tampering with another's property to endanger person or property, among other forms of vandalism. A third-degree felony carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $2,500.
School Discipline for Safety and Fire Violations
Your Pennsylvania college or university may pursue school discipline for safety and fire violations, whether prosecutors charge any of the above safety and fire crimes or not. School disciplinary proceedings would be more likely if the student's endangering conduct occurred on campus. But off-campus safety and fire misconduct may also indicate that the student is a risk on campus or to school students or personnel. Pennsylvania college and university conduct codes authorize discipline up to suspension or expulsion for safety and fire violations. Villanova University's Code of Student Conduct, for instance, expressly warns of school suspension and loss of university housing for any dangerous practice. It also imposes an automatic $500 fine for tampering with fire alarms or equipment and warns again of suspension for that offense. Other Pennsylvania colleges and universities maintain similar policies. See the Penn State, Drexel, and Temple student conduct codes cited above. If you face school disciplinary charges for safety and fire violations, retain Pennsylvania student discipline defense attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team for the skilled and experienced representation you need to defend and defeat those charges.
Investigating Campus Safety and Fire Violations
Pennsylvania colleges and universities take safety and fire issues most seriously. No college or university wants public condemnation and private liability for failing to reasonably prevent a foreseeable injury, death, or other catastrophe. Pennsylvania colleges and universities thus routinely maintain public safety departments to ensure safety and prevent fire violations. LaSalle University, Villanova University, the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State University, and Temple University are all examples of schools maintaining campus police departments. If information comes to the attention of school officials that you may have engaged in any such endangering behavior, you can expect campus police to investigate those reports swiftly and surely, whether public law enforcement takes their own action or not. And you can also expect school disciplinary charges to follow for any substantiated allegations.
Safety and Fire Violation Sanctions and Consequences
You have seen from the above that endangering behavior can lead to serious criminal charges that carry lengthy prison sentences and large fines, up to twenty years and $25,000. Indeed, if a student's endangering behavior, such as setting a fire, leads to another's death, the charges can include murder with a potential for capital punishment or life in prison. You've also seen above that school disciplinary charges over the same safety and fire violations can lead to severe school discipline right up to school expulsion. Penn State's Student Code of Conduct is another example providing for expulsion for serious forms of misconduct endangering the university community. Criminal convictions and school discipline may lead to other serious consequences. You may lose school housing and health insurance, see your school loans come due, and lose the ability to transfer or gain admission to another school. You may also lose jobs and a career. Be wary of these potential impacts.
Defending Safety and Fire Criminal Charges
The best way to protect your investment in your education is to retain student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento. Take action now for the best possible outcome. Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student defense team can provide arson crime defense and defense of other safety and fire violations in both the criminal courts and school disciplinary proceedings. In many cases, a defendant can raise defenses to defeat the criminal and school charges when the defendant has skilled and experienced attorney representation for both forms of proceeding. Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm's criminal defense team can help you in the criminal proceeding with bail for swift release, preliminary examination to expose gaps in the prosecution's case, the discovery of the prosecution's exonerating and mitigating evidence, evidence suppression for violation of constitutional rights, trial advocacy, appeals, and plea negotiations. Attorney Lento can also advise you about Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) to avoid prosecution and conviction. Get the skilled help you need to defend and defeat criminal charges for safety and fire violations.
Defending Safety and Fire School Disciplinary Charges
Pennsylvania colleges and universities have their own school disciplinary procedures for resolving safety and fire disciplinary charges. Penn State's Student Code of Conduct, Drexel's Student Code of Conduct, and Temple's Student Policies and Procedures are examples. Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm's student discipline defense team can invoke those procedures for your defense, attending or helping you prepare for disciplinary meetings and conferences, correcting the school's investigation report, attending formal hearings, and appealing adverse decisions. Attorney Lento has also helped students gain alternative special relief through general counsel and other oversight channels if your school's published procedures have not led to appropriate relief.
Pennsylvania Student Discipline and Criminal Defense
Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento is available for your criminal court and school disciplinary defense. Attorney Lento has substantial skill and experience helping students avoid conviction or discipline for Pennsylvania college student crimes. Contact attorney Lento now at 888.535.3686 or go online.