Case Studies: Behavioral Misconduct

Entering Student Successfully Defends Behavioral Misconduct Charges for Fighting, Proving Self Defense and Defense of Other

A small satellite campus of a large state university system in the Southeastern United States dismissed our client on behavioral misconduct charges for fighting and physically assaulting several other students. The university also charged several other students relating to the incident. The university immediately barred our client from returning to the campus, offering a hearing off campus related to the ban. Our client was a new student just beginning his general studies at the university's campus in his hometown. Our client had not initiated any fight or physical assault. He had instead encountered a group of unfamiliar students who had accosted and insulted our client and our client's female friend walking with him across campus. Our investigation showed that our client had tried to avoid the encounter while guiding his female friend away from the group, members of which appeared to be intoxicated. A police report on the incident had mistakenly implicated our client in initiating the encounter, when the opposite was true. We helped our client obtain several witness statements tending to support our client's accurate account of the matter. Our client admitted to physically confronting and restraining one or more members of the group, but only after they had shoved our client and touched or attempted to touch his female friend. We helped our client prepare for the off-campus hearing, the result of which was to allow our client back on campus to resume the start of the school year. We then helped our client resolve the charges with dismissal after an informal conference at which all parties committed to better relations. Our client ended up with a record clear of all misconduct charges, after less than a month of proceedings.

Graduate Student Gains Reinstatement After Dismissal for Unauthorized Use of Facilities and Misuse of University Identification

A well-known state university in the Great Lakes region dismissed our client, a graduate student in communications, on charges that our student had used another student's university identification several times to access recreational facilities, library resources, computer lab, and a healthcare clinic. The university had sent our client an email of the charges, notifying our client to appear at a specific time, date, and place within the next week for an informal hearing on the charges. When our client did not appear and instead mistakenly ignored and deleted the notice, the university defaulted our client on the charges, sending our client a notice of his dismissal from the university. The notice did not include any information about the student's right to appeal his dismissal, even though university procedures required that the university's dismissal notice include that appeal information. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we promptly researched the university's appeal procedures and prepared an appeal proving that the university had violated its notice procedures. Our appeal simultaneously provided the context in which our client had, in fact, used his roommate's identification, although not for all that the university's charges alleged, and without any harm to the university. Our client's appeal showed that our client had lost his university identification but had full privileges to the facilities and resources he accessed using his roommate's identification. The university granted our client's appeal due to its technical violation of its own notice provisions, resulting in a dismissal of the charges and reinstatement of our client after his assurance not to repeat the alleged violations.

Dormitory Student Avoids Suspension over Theft Charges Relating to Roommate's Personal Property

A public university in the South Central United States threatened to suspend our client over theft charges, after our client had a dispute with her eccentric roommate over their personal property. Our client was a sophomore student living in on-campus dormitory housing. Our client had several roommates in her first and second years in dormitory housing, with none of whom she had any problem with. But this eccentric roommate, assigned to our client's dormitory room in the second half of her sophomore year, was a problem from the first day to the last day of the semester. Most of the problems centered on the roommate's exaggerated claims to the ownership, possession, storage, and use of the personal items both students kept in their dormitory room. The roommate claimed to own things that our client, in fact, owned, including clothing, cosmetics, and even a mini refrigerator. The roommate also claimed that our client was misusing things that the roommate alleged she owned when our client, in fact, had purchased and brought those things into the dormitory room. When their disputes increased across the semester, the resident assistant initiated a disciplinary proceeding against both of them in an attempt to resolve the matter. Our client then got the university's permission to move out, but the roommate attempted to retain our client's personal property while claiming that our client was stealing the roommate's personal property when moving out. Our patient and persevering counsel to our client and communications with university officials resulted in the dismissal of all charges before the hearing. Through negotiation, our client also obtained the return of her personal property that she desired to retain, leaving her able to continue with her education with a clean discipline record.

Nursing Student Retains Enrollment After Drunk Driving Charge Related to Motor Vehicle Accident and Injury

A nursing program at a private university in the Northeastern United States threatened to dismiss our client after our client suffered a drunk driving charge relating to a motor vehicle accident, causing her injury and the injury of another vehicle occupant. The nursing program's disciplinary charge alleged that the drunk driving charge, accident, and injury constituted reckless conduct warranting discipline up to suspension or dismissal. Our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team not only to ensure that our client could remain in and complete the nursing program but also to ensure that the record of her school proceeding left her qualified for licensure and admission to nursing practice in her home state. Our team promptly communicated with the nursing program's disciplinary officials requesting an adjournment of the disciplinary proceeding while our client recovered, received counseling and treatment, and completed her current semester of studies while preparing to take a semester off. The nursing program granted the adjournment, giving our client time to get her life back on track, resolve other legal proceedings responsibly, and prepare to return to school to complete her degree. Our client, fortunately, suffered a criminal conviction only on a reduced charge. Our research and advocacy showed the nursing program's disciplinary officials that the matter no longer warranted suspension or dismissal. The matter was resolved with conditions after a hearing on the record. Our client was then in a position to easily satisfy the conditions, leaving her with no record of discipline and a clear opportunity for nursing licensure.

University Accepts Student's Withdrawal After Addiction Relapse, Clearing Student's Record

A small private college in the Southern United States dismissed our client on behavioral misconduct charges after our client relapsed in his drug addiction. The college's student code of conduct prohibited students from possessing, using, or distributing controlled substances on campus or at off-campus college events, in violation of state, federal, or local laws. Our client, a sophomore in a health sciences program, had entered the college after having recovered from a serious drug addiction that had required hospitalization and intensive treatment. Our client had disclosed his addiction history in his college application. Unfortunately, family stressors, including the death of a close relative and siblings suffering from depression and addiction, contributed to our client's relapse into drug abuse. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, our investigation showed that while our client had relapsed, our client had not technically violated the strict terms of the college's controlled substances policy. Our investigation also confirmed that the college had not provided our client with the due process that its policies promised, before dismissing our client. Our client's goal was not to return to the college but to withdraw from the college in good standing so that he could recover from his relapse and, in the future, attend another college or university where he would have a better chance of avoiding relapse. Our negotiation with disciplinary officials, aided by communications with the college's outside retained counsel and documentation of our client's treatment, resulted in the college rescinding our client's dismissal in favor of a voluntary withdrawal. The college also dismissed the behavioral misconduct charges, leaving our client with the clean record he would need for future matriculation at another school.

Student Protester Avoids Suspension After Successfully Defending Charges for Interfering With University Functions

Our client became a leader for a student advocacy organization related to a cause active on the public university's large Eastern Seaboard campus. Our client helped his student organization hold peaceful speaker events and campus rallies, all following the university's policies and procedures. One of those events, though, got out of hand when it attracted outsiders whom our client did not recruit, did not know, and did not expect, although his organization initially appeared to welcome the crowd, including the public visitors. Unfortunately, the event led to shouting, pushing, garbage cans being turned over, and other activities in and around the large crowd that local media portrayed as rioting. Under public pressure to maintain campus order, the university charged our client and several other student activist leaders with violating the university's rules against interfering with university functions and blocking access to streets, sidewalks, and buildings. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we researched the applicable First Amendment law, university rules, and state and local ordinances. We also advised our client on how to prepare for a public hearing on the charges. We also advocated with the university's disciplinary officials for separate hearings and public restrictions so that our client's hearing did not become a public circus. In the course of our negotiations with university officials over hearing procedures, we showed the university a way forward without hearing, in which the university acknowledged its need to improve crowd and event procedures. The university dismissed all charges against our client.

Freshman Student Avoids Dismissal After Successfully Defending Charges of Drunkenness, Trespass, and Vandalism

A large North Central United States public university charged our freshman client with drinking, trespass, and vandalism related to a dormitory incident in our client's first week at school. Our client was an honors student who did not drink and had not committed any trespass or vandalism, although other students had been drinking, trespassing, and damaging school property, and our client had been involved in trying to get other students to stop their misconduct. The school charged several other involved students with the same or similar misconduct as the school charged our client. School officials summarily suspended our client, threatening dismissal after the required hearing, despite that our client had not been directly involved in the incident and instead got caught up in reports of it as an innocent bystander. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we promptly gathered and presented our client's information to the disciplinary investigator while preparing our client for the investigation interview. We also helped our client obtain witness statements from his dorm roommates and other new acquaintances and obtain from the school and others cell phone photographs and surveillance videos surrounding the incident. Our client's interview and our presentation resulted in the investigator's recommendation that the university dismiss the charges against our client. The school's vice president for student affairs accepted the recommendation, dismissing all charges and clearing our client's school record of any wrongdoing. Our client missed only one week of classes and suffered no academic or other program delays or setbacks. The university proceeded against other involved students, some of whom suffered suspension or dismissal.

Fraternity Student Successfully Defends Hazing Charges, Gaining Reinstatement to Academic Program

A Central state's large public university charged our client, a fraternity student in his junior year, with hazing freshman students who had pledged to the fraternity. State law and university rules prohibited hazing and required long-term suspension or dismissal for students engaging in hazing. Our client admitted that his fraternity had a rigorous six-week pledging period that required the pledges to cook, clean, and do substantial cleanup and yard work but denied that he or any other fraternity member engaged in any activity that law or rule defined as hazing. When our client retained the Lento Law Firm's student defense team, we researched the state law and university rules on hazing and investigated how the university had applied that law and those rules in other cases. Our research and investigation were able to show that the activities our client and his fraternity brothers required pledges to pursue for membership in the fraternity did not meet the definition of hazing. Our presentation in preliminary communications and at an informal hearing also showed that our client and his fraternity brothers had performed the same activities when pledges, that none of the activities endangered the health or safety of any pledge, and that our client had not compelled any pledge to engage in any activities, all of which were voluntary and none of which resulted in any harm. The disciplinary official conducting the informal hearing recommended dismissal of the charges against our client, and the university student affairs director approved the dismissal. Our client suffered no interruption of his studies and instead continued with his courses toward graduation.

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