College Student Criminal Defense in Morris County

Whether you're a student living on campus at one of Morris County's colleges or universities, or you live in Morris County and attend college elsewhere, you may get the feeling when you're on campus that you're in another world, one that is insulated from many of the issues and cares that exist beyond your school's campus boundaries. The fact is, however, that crime happens on college campuses, and as a result schools across the country, including in Morris County, take the safety and security of their students, faculty, staff, and visitors very seriously. All schools have policies and procedures designed to regulate student and staff behavior, and they won't hesitate to involve local law enforcement when someone – student or otherwise – commits a crime on campus. They will also discipline students for campus and off-campus misconduct, in some cases even when the student isn't charged with a crime by local authorities.

If you find yourself charged with a crime for something you are accused of having done on- or off-campus, or you're being disciplined by your college or university for alleged criminal behavior, the Lento Law Firm is here to help. Call us today at 888.535.3686 or schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced attorneys to learn how we can help protect your rights.

Morris County Charges and School Discipline

Schools across the country, including those located in Morris County, take campus security very seriously. Many, like Fairleigh Dickinson University, have their own campus security forces that regularly communicate and work with law enforcement agencies from surrounding towns. Students who are accused of committing crimes on campus can quickly find themselves being prosecuted in local courts, as well as being disciplined by their schools for misconduct.

Because there are usually close ties between local law enforcement agencies and the schools that are located in their area, police may also notify schools when students are arrested off-campus. This can result in disciplinary procedures being started against the student, even if the police ultimately drop the charges.

In other cases, an on-campus victim of a crime may contact local police instead of reaching out to campus security. In these kinds of situations, police will usually coordinate early on with campus security, and the school will quickly learn if a student has been arrested or even questioned about an alleged crime.

If you're arrested for a crime on or off campus, you might face two levels of prosecution: a criminal prosecution from local law enforcement and New Jersey prosecutors, and a disciplinary proceeding from your college or university. In some cases, the consequences of your disciplinary proceeding may be more severe than those from your criminal prosecution. For example, if criminal charges against you are dropped or reduced, your school might still move forward with disciplinary proceedings that can end with you being suspended or expelled from school. This is why if you're a college student in Morris County and you're charged with a crime, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who also understands the dangers of on-campus disciplinary proceedings.

Consequences of Criminal Charges and School Discipline

Of course you already understand that criminal charges can affect you for years to come, particularly if you plead or are found guilty. The whole ordeal of being accused of a crime, arrested, booked, and charged by authorities is extremely stressful, and can make it difficult for you to focus on your studies. Add to that having to defend yourself against a disciplinary proceeding brought by the very school you're attending, and you can find yourself focusing only on your problems and not on your education. What will happen to your future if you have a criminal record? What if you're suspended or expelled from school? How can you defend yourself on both fronts while still focusing on your studies?

These kinds of questions are extremely difficult for anyone to answer on their own, and at the Lento Law Firm we counsel against trying to defend yourself in these kinds of situations. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys also understand how school disciplinary policies and procedures work. This gives us the background and perspective to consider what kind of defense will be best for our student clients given that they may have to face both criminal prosecution and school discipline.

The fact is that having a criminal record can make it harder for you to secure a good job for years into the future. And having a school record that shows you've been suspended or expelled can make it hard to change schools or to pursue a graduate degree. And either may affect your ability to get a professional license for a position that requires one. Finally, the toll on your self-esteem and your ability to focus on your work can be significant.

Working with one of the Lento Law Firm's experienced criminal defense attorneys can take much of this load off of your shoulders. We will fight for your rights both in court and in school, and will help you understand what's going in either case and to prepare for any meetings, hearings, or trials. One of the most important ways we can help is by negotiating on your behalf – both with prosecutors and with school officials. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney who also understands school disciplinary procedures on your side can make a huge difference in the outcome of both cases.

Morris County Campus Crimes

New Jersey laws apply on campus in the same way they do anywhere else in the state. That's why committing a crime on campus can lead to the same criminal penalties you would face if you committed one off-campus. Colleges do tend to see many of the same types of on-campus crimes, including:

  • Alcohol abuse. Students under the age of 21 can be arrested for buying, having, or drinking alcohol on campus just as they can off-campus.
  • Disorderly persons offense. Students who are too loud at the wrong hours, or who get into altercations that involve pushing, shoving, threats, or other behavior that disturbs the peace can be charged with a disorderly persons offense. Consequences can be up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
  • Drug offenses. Students can be charged with any number of drug-related offenses, based on both federal and New Jersey law. The charges will depend on the type of drug, the quantity the student is accused of having, whether the student is alleged to have been distributing the drug, and other factors. A conviction on a drug-related charge can mean years in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines. And the fact that New Jersey has legalized marijuana will not protect a student from being disciplined by their school for having or using it on campus; almost all schools across the US still prohibit marijuana because it remains illegal under federal law.
  • Criminal mischief. Vandalism of various types is typically charged as criminal mischief in New Jersey. Depending on the level of damage, it's either a third- or fourth-degree crime, and can result in up to a five-year jail sentence and a fine of up to $15,000. If the crime related to graffiti, the student can also be required to reimburse the owner of the property for the cost of restoring the defaced portion of the property, and to provide 20 days or more of community service.
  • Sex crimes. When a student is accused of committing a sex crime, the consequences can be particularly serious. New Jersey has a number of different types of sex crimes, including sexual assault (also called rape), aggravated sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, and indecent exposure. A student convicted of a sex crime in Morris county can face years of prison time, a large fine, and placement on a sex offender registry for the rest of their lives. Schools typically discipline sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination according to the school's “Title IX” policies, which track policies required by federal law.
  • Stalking. When a student makes repeated attempts to contact, interfere with, or harass another person, they can be charged with stalking. This sometimes happens when student relationships sour; one person's eager and continuing attempts to repair a broken relationship can be construed by the other person as unwelcome attempts at contact.
  • Harassment and hazing. New Jersey prohibits both harassment and hazing. Harassment is essentially contacting someone in a way likely to cause them “annoyance or alarm.” Hazing relates to putting someone in danger in the course of a fraternity or sorority initiation. Schools will often specifically prohibit hazing in the same way they prohibit other types of common campus misconduct.
  • Fake ID. While it may seem like it's not a big deal because “everybody does it,” having and using a fake ID can result in criminal charges in New Jersey. Many schools also have specific prohibitions against students having or using false identification.

Morris County Criminal Procedures

Crimes in Morris county are prosecuted by the Morris County Prosecutor's Office, located in Morristown. When the county prosecutor decides that charges should be brought against you, whether for an on-campus or off-campus incident, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. At the Lento Law Firm, our Criminal Defense Team has helped students and other defendants all across New Jersey protect their rights in criminal prosecutions. Our attorneys also help students who are fighting disciplinary proceedings brought by their colleges or universities, and we understand that when you're having to defend yourself twice – once in court, once at school – you need the help of an attorney who has experience with both of these situations.

There are typical steps that most defendants – including students – face when criminal charges are brought against them in New Jersey. These are:

  • Pretrial Hearings and Conferences. Your arraignment, any bail hearing, and scheduling conferences that happen from time to time all come under the heading of pretrial conferences. You will be required to attend many of these; your attorney will let you know which ones.
  • Motions. There may be motions filed before any criminal trial takes place. These can relate to a number of different parts of the case; sometimes they are meant to try to prevent the government from using certain evidence or witnesses against you; sometimes they seek to dismiss parts, or even all, of the government's case.
  • Plea Discussions. Almost every criminal case includes discussions between prosecutors and defense attorneys about possible plea deals. This is where working with an experienced criminal defense attorney can make a significant difference. The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team uses our experience with criminal law to help negotiate as favorable terms as possible for our clients; in some cases, we're able to explain to prosecutors why the case should be dropped. When our client is a student, we also keep in mind that the student may face school discipline depending on what the terms of any deal are.
  • Trial. In a trial, prosecutors will present the case against you first. Your attorney will be able to argue against introducing evidence against you where it doesn't meet New Jersey's standards, and will also be able to cross-examine the government's witnesses. If at the close of the prosecution's case they've failed to prove the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt, your attorney may ask the judge to dismiss the case even before you present your defense. After the prosecution's case, you'll have a chance to present your defense, though you're not required to do so and can rely on the government's failure to meet its burden.
  • Sentencing. If you're found guilty, the judge will typically schedule a sentencing date and will ask both sides to provide information about you and the case that the judge will use to guide whatever sentence is imposed. Sometimes prosecutors and the defense will agree to a particular sentence; ultimately, however, it's up to the judge.
  • Appeal. If you're convicted, you will have the chance to appeal. At the Lento Law Firm we can become involved even at this late stage, and can prepare, file, and argue appeals of criminal convictions even if we did not represent you at trial.

Being convicted of a crime – even if you plead guilty – can affect you as a student. Schools often will discipline students who are found guilty of crimes, whether by pleading guilty or after a trial. They'll even discipline students who are arrested but have the charges dropped. This means that after the ordeal of a criminal case, you may also have to endure a disciplinary proceeding that could end up with you being suspended or expelled from your college or university. Working with one of the experienced attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team will help you reduce the potential for both a damaging prosecution and a damaging disciplinary proceeding.

Morris County School Disciplinary Procedures

Every college or university has its own set of disciplinary procedures that are used to investigate and pursue misconduct complaints against students. These usually include:

  • Investigation. When a complaint is filed, the school will review it and, when it covers the type of conduct that the school regulates, it can decide to investigate the allegation to decide whether to charge the student with misconduct. Complaints can come from a number of sources: other students; faculty or staff; local residents; and police officials.
  • Charges and Pre-Hearing Conferences. After the investigation, the school may decide not to file disciplinary charges against the student. If it does, the charges will often include a proposed penalty. In most cases, the student will be able to meet with school officials to discuss the case, and sometimes to negotiate any penalty that may be assessed. Working with an experienced attorney can be very helpful at this stage, because the lawyer will be able to present any legal arguments on your behalf and may also be able to propose alternative forms of discipline that allow you to continue your schooling, sometimes with a clean record.
  • Hearing. If the case isn't resolved through negotiation, it will proceed to some form of hearing. This will resemble a criminal trial in form, but will be less formal. Often the standards for introducing evidence will be much looser, and typically the charges against the student need only be found to be “more likely than not,” instead of “proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”
  • Ruling. The ruling may come at the close of the hearing, or may come some time after. In some cases, both sides will have a chance to present the hearing officer with a proposed ruling that the hearing officer can use when making the ruling on the case.
  • Appeal. Most schools also have an appeal procedure; there are typically time limits and requirements for what must be included in any appeal, which are important to follow if you want your appeal to be effective.

When you work with an experienced attorney who understands school disciplinary procedures and standards, you have a much better chance of achieving a successful outcome than if you try to defend yourself on your own. This is doubly the case when you also face criminal charges for the same incident. The Lento Law Firm can help you defend yourself both against criminal charges and in any school disciplinary proceeding you might face.

Premier Morris County, NJ School, and Criminal Defense Attorney

The Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team includes attorneys with years of experience helping clients, including students, defend themselves against criminal charges all over New Jersey. We also advise students facing disciplinary proceedings at their college or university, and understand how important your education is to you. We have the skills and understanding of both types of proceedings to provide you with the balanced and aggressive representation that you need to protect your rights and make the most of your future.

To learn more about how the Lento Law Firm Criminal Defense Team can help you protect your rights in court and at school, call us today at 888.535.3686 or schedule a confidential consultation with one of our experienced defense attorneys. We're here to listen and to help!

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