Providing Attorney-Advocate Services for Code of Conduct Violations Across the Country
Virtually every college or university across the United States has a formal code of conduct—a published set of ethical, professional, and legal standards that it expects students and faculty to follow. This code may include responsibilities and regulations, ranging from academic honesty and appropriate technology use to hazing and controlled substance guidelines. Simply speaking, a code of conduct is a bit like an internal body of laws, with the intent of supporting an institution's community-wide commitment to integrity, diversity, honesty, and fairness.
While a code of conduct is not enforced in the same way local area laws might be, breaking the code is not without consequences. Students who fail to comply with its terms will likely be subject to some sort of sanction or penalty. If you or a loved one have been accused of violating your school's code of conduct, you likely received a notice of disciplinary violation outlining the claim. You may then be called before an administrative hearing committee made up of other students, administrators, and faculty. And if you are found guilty? You may be looking at serious punishment, including suspension, expulsion, or other penalties that have the potential to become part of your permanent academic record.
Know Your Rights – and What to Expect
A student code of conduct hearing is not like an appearance in an official court of law. While your favorite television shows and movies may have led you to believe you have certain Constitutional rights that follow you into any legal proceeding – the right to remain silent and the right to a free attorney, just to start – campus judicial systems do not keep to the same standards you would expect in a federal or state courtroom. Schools have a remarkable amount of leeway when it comes to the rights afforded to students accused of a conduct violation – and their processes regarding confidentiality, due process, and evidence gathering and presentation may be a little laxer than you might expect. For example, did you know, in most college proceedings, the things you say, even to friends, can be used against you during your hearing? Those little disparities can add up to huge differences in case outcomes if you aren't careful.
While campus disciplinary hearings are required to be handled in a consistent manner across the university community, specific procedures and protections can and do vary from institution to institution. And there are often big differences in procedures and other safeguards when you compare public and private institutions of learning, too. Those differences can matter greatly to your hearing's outcome.
With so much riding on your education – your hard work, your tuition dollars, your reputation, and your degree – it is important that you recognize the gravity of a code of conduct violation. While you may feel embarrassment or shame about the incident or may simply be trying to convince yourself that it's not that big a deal, a guilty finding has serious consequences for your future. If you have received a notice of violation, it is important to consult an experienced attorney-advocate who understands the ins and outs of university judicial proceedings. That representative can guide you, helping you better navigate your school's specific disciplinary procedures and practices to make sure your rights are protected every step of the way. The most important part of any successful defense is the right preparation.
Property Damage Violations
Most institutes of higher education have specific rules regarding removing, destroying, or damaging property – both belonging to the school or to other members of the university community. The code may also include unauthorized use of university property as a property violation too. It's important to carefully read the regulations set forth in your university's code to understand what is expected of you.
It's also important to note that you may be charged with a property damage violation even if the act was unintentional. That unexpected coffee spill across a computer lab workstation or accidental damage to your dorm room furniture can and often does count. And while, generally speaking, the consequences of such a violation typically involves the cost of replacement or repairs, there could be more severe sanctions. If you are not careful, you could lose access to university facilities, lose your housing privileges, or, in more extreme cases, be suspended or expelled from the university altogether.
If you receive a notice of violation, you may also be given a date of hearing, where you can present your case in front of a disciplinary panel. While such panels often consist of faculty members or university staff, some colleges ask students to participate, too. This hearing is your opportunity to review the documentation relating to your alleged misconduct and to present your side of the story. You get one shot at your defense – it's important to do it right.
What Should I Do If I Am Accused of a Property Damage Violation?
First and foremost, it's important to stay calm. Do not let panic get the best of you in this situation. Second, reach out to a code of conduct violation lawyer. While many universities and colleges will suggest representation is unnecessary, having an attorney-advocate with national experience in this area, like Lento Law Firm, can help you better understand the nuances of your particular university's code of conduct regulations, how serious your violation may be, and how to best prepare your defense in order to get to the most favorable outcome. Even if your school does not permit a lawyer to accompany you to your hearing, having sound legal advice from the start can help you understand your rights during the hearing process and know how to best present your defense to the disciplinary committee or panel.
For many years, attorney-advocate Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have successfully defended thousands of students across the nation facing various code of conduct allegations. The Lento Law Firm can help resolve your situation, too. With so much at stake, you need an experienced lawyer who will fight for you – and your future. To schedule a consultation, call (888) 535-3686 or contact us online.