Providing Nationwide Representation for Code of Conduct Violations
When you first stepped foot on your college or university campus, you may not have realized you entered into a type of contract: to follow your school's formal code of conduct. Open up your school handbook, and you'll find a detailed set of ethical, professional, and legal standards you are expected to follow while you are a part of the campus community. While it is highly recommended that you read your university or college handbook, not everyone does. But it's important to understand this code. It contains all the responsibilities and regulations expected of you as a member of the campus community. It tackles everything from substance misuse to cellular telephone policies in the classroom. You can think of the code of conduct as your university's internal body of laws. And they play a vital role in supporting integrity, honesty, and fairness at any institution of high learning.
While the code of conduct is like the same body of laws you might find at the county courthouse, it can't be enforced in the same way. That said, if you do violate the code, you can face pretty dire consequences. Failing to comply with the rules and regulations within the code can lead to sanctions and penalties, ranging from a loss of school privileges to, in the worst-case scenario, your expulsion from school. If you or someone you know has been accused of violating your school's code of conduct, it's important to consult legal representation. While you will not be going to court, per se, most schools bring those accused before an administrative committee, made up of faculty, administrators, and even, at times, students, to give you a hearing. That is where you can present your defense – but it's important to realize that universities have a remarkable amount of leeway in how they adjudicate code of conduct violations.
Know Your Rights – And Mount a Strong Defense
The first step in the judicial process is a notice of disciplinary violation. For many students, the first they have heard of an allegation is when they see this notice in their school mailbox. That notice will have varying details about the accusation – as well as the next steps, which likely include a hearing in front of a disciplinary panel. This is not something to take lightly. Ignoring the notice of violation – or trying to talk your way out of it – can not only be used against you later but may also make it more likely you'll face more serious sanctions, which might even include probation, suspension, or expulsion.
Don't think an administrative committee hearing will be like appearing in an official court of law. The Constitutional rights that follow you into state and federal legal proceedings aren't always administrated in the same way in university judicial processes. Don't assume what you do and say can't be used against you or that the school will provide you a form of representation. While campus judicial systems are expected to maintain a consistent set of processes and standards, what that looks like can vary quite a bit from school to school – and even from public to private institutions. It is vital you realize that what you would expect from due process, evidence presentation, and confidentiality rules may not hold on campus. And those disparities? They hold a lot more sway than you might realize over the outcome of your case.
To get where you are, you've worked hard and likely spent tens of thousands in tuition dollars. With your reputation and your degree on the line, it's important you understand that a code of conduct can have significant influence over your future. While it is easy to be cavalier about such violations, you do not want a guilty finding on your permanent academic record. It will be the first thing that potential employers or graduate schools see. Therefore, if you have received a notice of violation, you will benefit immeasurably from experienced representation. When you can partner with an attorney-advocate, who understands the nuances of university judicial systems, you are in a much better position to navigate your school's disciplinary procedures. And, in doing so, you can ensure your rights are protected every step of the way while you mount an effective defense.
Universities take a hard stance on the theft of both university property or that of property belonging to faculty, students, or other campus employees. It's important to know that you can be accused of theft even if you are not the one who did the taking – often, possession of the stolen property is enough. You can also be charged with attempted theft or with enabling, abetting, or aiding others who may be involved with taking property or services that do not belong to them. Whether you are talking about robbery, shoplifting, or burglary, this is not the kind of violation future schools or employers are going to look kindly upon when it's added to your permanent academic record.
It is important to understand that while the term “theft” may have a rather sinister connotation, violations may include things that may seem, at the moment, rather harmless. For example, the attempted or actual unauthorized use of a student identification card, University account, or cellular phone may all be considered theft under the right circumstances. You may think it's not a big deal, just a little sharing of meal plan cards between roommates until the violation shows up in your student mailbox.
If you are accused of theft, it's important to remember that this violation can have serious consequences. Restitution of some sort is usually involved – but you may also be looking at school probation, a loss of financial aid packages, or in more serious cases, suspension or expulsion. These immediate potential consequences are also separate from the fact that a student found responsible for a theft offense will be regarded as dishonest because a theft charge, by the nature of the offense itself, is considered an act of dishonesty
What Should I Do If I Am Accused of a Theft Violation?
If you are charged with a code of conduct violation involving theft, you want an experienced attorney-advocate by your side. It really can make all the difference to your case's outcome. You may be tempted to try to explain things to your dean or, worse, reach out to the person who has accused you of this charge. After all, often, charges like these may be borne out of a miscommunication or misunderstanding. You may even think this isn't a big deal; you can just ignore it or represent yourself at your disciplinary hearing. None of these approaches are to your benefit. An attorney familiar with code of conduct violations can help you understand the process, gather the right evidence, and present an effective defense.
Attorney-advocate Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have unparalleled experience with university code of conduct violations. Having a representative in your corner – one who has successfully defended thousands of students across the nation – can make all the difference to your case's outcome. To schedule a confidential consultation and learn more about how the Lento Law Firm can help protect your future, call (888) 535-3686 or contact us online.