Joseph D. Lento dedicated his career to defending students and staffers accused of wrongdoing by colleges and universities across the United States. With unparalleled experience in campus judicial settings, he understands every school's judicial process is a bit different. Those little differences, which may not seem like much at first glance, can add up to significant changes in case outcomes if not handled appropriately. He's made his reputation for fighting for students who are facing allegations of code of conduct violations – and he will fight just as strongly for you.
Your time at college or university is the stepping stone to the rest of your adult life. You've worked hard – and spent a significant amount of time and money – to get where you are. That's why, if you or someone you care about has been accused of a code of conduct violation, it is important to have the representation of an experienced attorney-advocate. When you have someone in your corner who understands the nuances of college code of conduct violations, as well as the latest Title IX regulations, you can better ensure you are treated fairly throughout the entire process – and your case is resolved in the most favorable manner.
College disciplinary violations can impact an accused student's life for years beyond graduation if not defended properly. Students who consult with an experienced attorney-advocate as early as possible in the disciplinary process, across the board, will see better outcomes to their cases. With your reputation, your tuition dollars, and your degree at stake, you want an attorney like Joseph D. Lento, with many years of experience passionately advocating for his clients at colleges and universities across the country, to fight for you – and your future.
Understanding Your School's Code of Conduct
You can think of your college or university's code of conduct like the campus' internal body of laws. Nearly every institution of higher learning has one, both in the United States and abroad – and this formal, published set of ethical, professional, and legal standards are there to protect everyone in your school's greater community, from students to part-time campus workers. Within the code, you'll find all the regulations and responsibilities surrounding the issues that most affect your campus, from items related to classroom activities to dormitory living. Simply stated, it lists the various things that are prohibited on campus – basically, all the things you are not permitted to do while you are a member of the school community. It is important you understand the expectations that are outlined in your school's code of conduct. Ignorance of the code is not a defense if you are charged with a violation.
Common Categories of Conduct Violations
As you page through your university's code of conduct, you will see that it covers a host of different topics – anything the school has determined is necessary to support its values and maintain the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and fairness across the campus community. Every school will have its own code of conduct, with different rules regarding such topics. Breaking the rules can lead to a disciplinary violation. You may think such a thing isn't a big deal. It's college, after all! Shenanigans are bound to occur! But nothing is farther from the truth. A code of conduct violation can lead to quite serious consequences, depending on the severity of the offense, ranging from the loss of school privileges to outright expulsion. Any guilty finding, as well as the resulting sanctions, will end up on your permanent academic record, where potential employers or graduate schools can see them.
Some of the most common code of conduct violations across the country, where colleges or universities are more likely to take action against students, include:
- Alcohol possession. This may be one of the most common disciplinary violations at colleges across the nation. Most institutions of higher learning have quite specific rules regarding alcohol use, especially on school property, whether you are of legal drinking age or not. While many of the best college stories you grew up hearing likely involved some beer, it's important to know the rules at your school. Students who are caught drinking, particularly underage students, can face serious penalties.
- Hazing. Hazing, or some kind of ritual that involves risk, pain, embarrassment, or harm for initiation purposes, has become a defining issue on college campuses. As such, both individuals, as well as organizations, are likely to be hit with a code of conduct violation if their initiation rights go too far with new inductees. Increasingly, colleges and universities are taking a harsh stand on hazing – so, if you are accused of hazing, it is likely you will face severe penalties.
- Academic misconduct. You are likely to find several pages dedicated to academic integrity in your school's code of conduct. After all, getting a quality education is why you enrolled! This section of the code prohibits cheating on a test, committing plagiarism, falsifying official school records, or unauthorized collaboration on projects. If you are found to violate these rules, you can expect a big mark on your academic record.
- Residential misconduct. For many students, the dormitory is the first place they will live outside their parents' home. While there may be a learning curve, it is important to be a good member of the community. Your school's code of conduct likely has rules regarding damage or destruction of property, disruptive behavior, safety hazards, or substance use. If you are found to have violated one of these rules, you could lose your university housing – or be suspended or expelled from campus altogether.
- Sexual misconduct. This is the violation that most often makes the headlines – and, for good reason, even just the allegation of sexual misconduct can follow you long past your college years. Whether you are accused of stalking, harassing, abusing, or raping another person on campus, the consequences are dire. Worse, they often implicate Title IX, a federal law that guarantees equal access to higher education for people of different genders and sexual orientations. As such, it's not unusual for colleges and universities to take aggressive action when there is an allegation of sexual misconduct.
While the items on this list are by no means exhaustive – your school's code of conduct likely takes up a rather large chapter in your student handbook – they are some of the violations that schools are most likely to take a harsh stance on. It's important you understand what your school expects from you with regard to these rules.
Understanding Your Rights and the Campus Judicial Process
If you or a loved one has been accused of a code of conduct violation, you will likely receive a notice of violation or a notice of disciplinary action. This notice is a formal letter from the school administration, but you may also receive an electronic copy in your student email inbox. The notice will include varying details of the allegation, as well as the time and date of a disciplinary hearing in front of a judicial committee. You can think of this hearing like a court appearance. It's the place where you will hear the charges being brought against you and the evidence that supports them. It is also when you will have the opportunity to present a defense to the charges – and tell your side of the story.
But while the administrative hearing may be like a court appearance, it is not the same. You were likely raised on television legal dramas that highlighted your rights in any judicial proceedings. But what too many students don't realize is that the way your campus handles such proceedings is likely much different than your average county or state courtroom. They will have their own procedures – and their version of due process doesn't always move quickly. In addition, the strong Constitutional protections you are afforded regarding privacy, searches, evidence-gathering, and self-incrimination are not always applied the same way by colleges and universities. What you do and say can be used against you if you aren't careful. Representation isn't guaranteed – in fact, your notice of violation may even say you are not permitted to have outside representation come with you to the hearing. And the rules regarding what schools are permitted to search for on-campus email accounts or campus property is quite broad.
There are many differences between campus administrative hearings and your average court of law – and many of them, even though they may seem somewhat trivial, often work against the accused. And, while many schools claim to prioritize rehabilitative over punitive outcomes in code of conduct cases, it's important to understand that colleges and universities are not there to protect you or even the accusing party in a disciplinary hearing – they are there to protect the institution. If you are found responsible, you are likely to face harsh penalties: a suspension at the minimum. That's why it is so essential to consult with an experienced attorney-advocate who understands the nuances involved with campus judicial proceedings. Hiring a lawyer with national experience defending code of conduct violations can help you not only better navigate your school's individual judicial policies and procedures – but mount a defense that can lead to the best possible outcome. Even if your school does not permit you to have outside representation during your hearing, you can rest assured the advice and defense preparation you receive beforehand will allow you to present your side of the story – and any corresponding evidence – clearly and confidently.
About Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm
Joseph D. Lento knows something about having to fight to make it to the top. He was the first in his family to become an attorney – and knows the hard work, sacrifice, and challenges that come with the pursuit of your degree and a better future for you and your family.
College and university code of conduct violations can be a tricky business. Between the differences across schools in how they administrate judicial proceedings – as well as the varying protections for students who have been accused of wrongdoing – it's important to have someone with the right experience in your corner. Students who are facing a disciplinary violation aren't bad kids. They are likely facing disciplinary action because of a miscommunication or misunderstanding – or for a simple mistake they didn't realize could have such profound consequences. Either way, they shouldn't have to pay with their future.
Life isn't always easy – sometimes you have to fight to make an impact. And you definitely have to fight to win. Joseph D. Lento's incomparable criminal trial experience, as well as his many years working with code of conduct cases, puts him in a unique position to defend you or the student you care about while they go through what will likely be one of the toughest times in his or her life. He puts the right combination of knowledge, experience, and determination into each and every case to ensure he can resolve his clients' concerns for the most favorable outcome possible. He is an attorney-advocate who strongly believes in defending his clients with everything he's got – and he won't stop until he gets results.
This is especially important when you feel like the deck is stacked against you. And, in many ways, if you find yourself accused of a code of conduct violation, the deck is. With so much at stake, you deserve a lawyer who will fight tooth and nail for you – and your future. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm have successfully defended thousands of students across the nation who faced various code of conduct allegations. His invaluable knowledge and experience with college and university judicial proceedings can help you mount the strongest possible defense – and resolve your case in the most favorable way. To schedule a confidential consultation with Joseph D. Lento, call (888) 535-3686 or contact us online.