There are many advantages for a student going off to college or university to continue their education and hopefully have access to better jobs and opportunities in their post-graduate life. With all the benefits of college, there are some other opportunities for young adults to find some mischief. While an average citizen might not get noticed, caught, investigated, reported, or charged for some of these things, a college student doing them on campus really might. RAs, cameras, heavy security, and police presence, combined with a Safe Community mandate, mean that the odds of getting noticed, caught, investigated, reported, or charged are much higher for students.
One of these infractions is trespassing. As with many infractions, trespassing can be both a student conduct violation as well as a crime. A student can face charges both from the college or university as well as a local district attorney. Many defense attorneys may have experience with regular criminal law, but in a school trespassing case where both the school and the courts are involved, you want to find an attorney with many years of experience in both student defense and criminal defense. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm specialize in defending students in Pennsylvania who are accused of wrongdoing by their colleges, universities, graduate, or medical programs. Joseph Lento also has years of experience defending students in criminal law cases.
What Is Trespassing?
Trespassing may be one of the most common criminal convictions. It can be easy, or even tempting, to wander onto private or school property where you aren't allowed, even without warning signs. But the consequences of what may seem like a minor criminal conviction can be long-lasting, impacting your education, career, and even your ability to rent or buy a house. Trespassing charges can range from a summary offense to a felony, so this is nothing to take lightly. Call the Lento Law Firm right away at (888) 535-3686 if you or a friend or family member is facing trespassing charges and they are a student at a college or university.
Pennsylvania state law 18 Pa.C.S.A § 3503 defines trespassing as:
- A person commits an offense if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he:
- enters, gains entry by subterfuge or surreptitiously remains in any building or occupied structure or separately secured or occupied portion thereof; or
- breaks into any building or occupied structure or separately secured or occupied portion thereof.
The law also defines a “Defiant Trespasser” as someone who:
- A person commits an offense if, knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place as to which notice against trespass is given by:
- actual communication to the actor;
- posting in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the attention of intruders;
- fencing or other enclosure manifestly designed to exclude intruders;
- notices posted in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the person's attention at each entrance of school grounds that visitors are prohibited without authorization from a designated school, center or program official; or
- an actual communication to the actor to leave school grounds as communicated by a school, center or program official, employee or agent or a law enforcement officer.
The person accused of committing trespassing is referred to as the actor in the state law. Depending on the nature of the offense, trespassing will be charged as either a misdemeanor or even a felony. Being convicted of trespassing can result in actual jail time as well as hefty financial penalties, so it will be important to retain an experienced and knowledgeable attorney right away.
Trouble at school and with the law has the potential to derail a young person's life and have a very serious impact on their future. It is important for a student to learn a valuable lesson for making the mistake of trespassing, but their entire future doesn't have to be ruined over this lapse in judgment. Just because you have been accused of trespassing, this doesn't mean that you have to face the maximum penalty.
To make sure you or your child can still have a bright future, you should be sure to find the very best representation. A premier Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney like Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Team can provide you the very best legal representation. Not all criminal justice attorneys also have experience with student discipline cases, and it's important to find someone who is an expert in both aspects of a case regarding the making of threats. In order to protect yourself from serious, long-term repercussions, you need an attorney who has the many years of experience Joseph Lento has.
How the Criminal Process Works
In the criminal justice system, a local prosecutor pursues cases when they believe there is sufficient evidence to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an individual has committed a criminal act, such as trespassing. If a person is convicted of a crime, they will face criminal penalties, such as incarceration, probation, or the imposition of a fine. These penalties can be quite heavy and have the potential to negatively impact a student's future.
A good criminal defense attorney is necessary to help get the charges reduced or suspended. An experienced attorney knows the law, but also knows how to work within the law to get the best outcome for their client. An experienced attorney, like Joseph D. Lento, will know how to get the best outcome for the student.
In cases involving a university or college student, however, a student may also have the additional component of dealing with their institution's student disciplinary process, and not all attorneys have the experience necessary to get the best outcome from college and university processes as well. The Lento Law Firm Team specializes in defending students accused of wrongdoing by their college or university and negotiating the best outcome possible.
What to Expect With Student Code of Conduct Violations
Getting state criminal charges reduced or dismissed is a very good start, but in cases where a student is found guilty of violating the law as well as their educational institution's student conduct code, you will need a team that specializes in student defense. In addition to going through the criminal court process, you may also have to go through your university's discipline process in order to resolve the matter. Attorney Joseph Lento knows how to handle both of these processes.
The college disciplinary process seeks to determine whether an individual has violated college policy. In this process, a preponderance of the evidence standard of proof is used to determine responsibility. A person who is found to have violated college policy may be suspended, expelled, or otherwise restricted from full participation in the college community.
While a criminal case must prove guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the college disciplinary process only requires a “preponderance of the evidence.” This is a lower standard for conviction; essentially, it means that there only needs to be a fifty percent chance that the claim against the student is true. Clearly, this is a much lower bar for conviction, so the odds of facing penalties are much higher.
While some universities may not specifically mention trespassing in their student code of conduct, nearly every school includes provisions for student discipline for students who are convicted of breaking state or local laws on school property or at school-sanctioned events.
Potential Student Actions That Could Result in Trespassing Charges
As mentioned above, it can be very easy for a student to be tempted to trespass. Young adults who are just learning to be grown-ups often still have a mischievous streak and can think of trespassing as playful fun. There are many areas of a college or university campus that are off-limits to students and the general public. Even though signs prohibiting entry are prominently displayed, a student may still enter for a variety of reasons.
There are also areas where a student may be permitted to enter during the day, but they are not allowed to enter on nights, evenings, or weekends. For example, having class in Room 120 on Mondays at 10:00 a.m. does not give a student to enter Room 120 on Saturday night. Many classrooms remain locked outside of class times in order to safeguard expensive technology, and attempting to enter without permission is a violation. Students may assume they have the right to enter at all times, but they do not, and can face potentially life-changing consequences.
Students also should be aware that entering another student's dorm room or apartment without that student's permission is also considered trespassing under the law. Even if the person is a close friend or romantic partner, permission is still required to enter their room or apartment. This can sometimes be complicated in instances where the person is an ex-partner. While you may be tempted to duck into a friend's room to borrow a notebook while they are in class, you should never enter another person's space without permission.
College or university storage buildings, closets, sporting facilities, and utility rooms can be tempting areas to enter without permission for some students. Sneaking into a closet on campus to fool around is not harmless fun; it can have serious consequences. Young adults don't always make the best decisions when they're surrounded by peers, trying to impress other students, or are simply bored.
Farmland and forested areas are also specifically mentioned in Pennsylvania law, so a student can face criminal charges for unlawfully entering those areas for seemingly harmless mischief or fraternity or sorority pranks. Whether it's cow-tipping, an elaborate scavenger hunt, or part of some kind of hazing ritual, a student can get in big trouble for being on someone else's property without permission.
Mistakes happen, but there is no reason a youthful mistake should cost a student their freedom and their potential future. Contact Joseph Lento immediately if you face a trespassing charge, or any other disciplinary situation. Just call (215) 535-5353 locally or toll-free at (888) 535-3686.
What to do if You Are Charged With Trespassing
While it may be tempting to try to tell your side of the story, you should always say as little as possible until you can talk to a good attorney. Be cooperative, don't withhold important personal information, but consult an attorney before you give any statements. Also, don't post anything on social media about what is happening or give statements to any third parties. You may think it will help your case, but you could unknowingly say something that hurts your case and will cost you dearly. An experienced attorney like Joseph Lento knows the law and understands student code of conduct violations. He and his team will advise you on what to say and what not to say.
Premier Pennsylvania Student Defense Attorney Available
Pennsylvania student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento combines criminal defense skills and experience with school discipline defense in hundreds of cases. It doesn't matter whether your trespassing charge arose out of a fraternity or sorority event or other activity falling under your school's general student code of conduct. Attorney Lento has successfully defended hundreds of students nationwide on many different kinds of misconduct charges, including charges for trespassing. Attorney Joseph Lento and the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team provide you with winning defense services in both the local criminal courts and your college or university's disciplinary proceedings. Retain a premier attorney with both the student discipline defense experience and criminal defense experience you need to save your Pennsylvania college or university education. Protect your education and future. Contact Attorney Lento now at 888.535.3686 or go to our website for help.