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Criminal Accusations Can Profoundly Affect High School and College Students

Criminal Accusations Can…

A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Minimize the Impact of a Criminal Conviction

High school and college students who have been accused or convicted of a crime must not only address legal punishments; they must also contend with the collateral consequences of a criminal accusation or conviction which can impact a student’s educational and career opportunities for years to come. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help by minimizing the consequences of a criminal charge for high school and college students.

A Criminal Record Makes College Applications and Acceptance More Difficult

Private colleges, public universities, community colleges, and trade schools often ask about a prospective student’s criminal history through questions on application materials. The questions often address criminal charges, not just whether an applicant has been convicted. Applicants who have been arrested or convicted of a crime should resist the temptation to gloss over this question or not answer it truthfully because most educational institutions will conduct their own criminal background check which will reveal not just convictions, but arrests as well. Colleges and universities may deny entrance because of an applicant’s criminal history or because an applicant lied about it. In some cases, they may even require that applicants pay for the costs of a background check.      

In 1998, Congress passed a law prohibiting people with drug-related convictions from receiving financial aid. This included Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and work-study programs. The law was relaxed in 2007 and now only applies to drug-related offenses that were committed while the student was receiving financial aid. Nonetheless, criminal charges can have a profound effect on a student’s ability to receive and pay for higher education. And because post-secondary education is so closely correlated to higher lifetime earnings, a criminal conviction can have a profound impact on a person’s future.

Students Accused of a Crime Must Contend with Legal Consequences and Internal Disciplinary Proceedings

Students who are under 18 and have been charged with a crime will have their cases heard in juvenile court unless the crime was particularly severe. A student’s juvenile record is restricted, and may be sealed once they turn 21. But students who are over 18 are legally recognized as adults and will have their case heard by the local criminal court. Common crimes committed by people in high school and college include:

  • DUI
  • Drug possession
  • Underage alcohol consumption (minor in possession / minor in consumption)
  • Assault
  • Harassment
  • Theft

Even though many of these crimes are misdemeanors, they can still have a profound effect on a young person’s future. 

In addition to criminal penalties, students must also contend with a college or school’s internal policies as they relate to criminal charges or convictions. Every school, and even sometimes the colleges within the college or university, may have different internal policies addressing students who have been accused or convicted of a crime. These policies often include disciplinary action such as loss of financial aid, suspension from school, or even expulsion. The severity of the punishment usually varies with the severity of the alleged crime. Nonetheless, in addition to penalties associated with the crime itself, high school and college students also face collateral consequences that can profoundly affect their future.

Student-Athletes Face the Loss of Financial Aid Packages

Student-athletes who have been charged with a crime face additional complications. High-school and college athletes who have been charged with a crime face criminal punishments, just like everyone else. But most student-athletes are subject to a Code of Conduct that can impose severe consequences if a student-athlete is accused of a crime. Student-athletes who have been charged with a crime might face suspension from an athletic program which can lead to the loss of valuable financial aid packages or scholarships.

Most schools and universities enforce their student-athlete Code of Conduct through an extra-judicial process that involves appearing before an ethics review or administrative board. A group of administrators and students will often hear arguments from both sides and make a decision about penalties for a student-athlete who has been charged with a crime. The school’s athletic director usually has the final say in these decisions. Fortunately, students are allowed to have an attorney assist with these proceedings.

A Criminal Conviction Can Limit Young People From Many Job Opportunities

Most employers perform a background check on potential employees, and employers are less likely to hire employees who have a criminal record. In fact, a criminal conviction can permanently bar a person from pursuing certain career opportunities.

If you have a criminal conviction, particularly for a violent crime, a sexually oriented crime, or a drug-related offense, it is unlikely that you will be able to work with children as a teacher or in child care. Depending on the nature of your situation you may also be prohibited from many jobs in the healthcare field, law enforcement, finance, government, and even retail. 

Fremstad Law - Moving You Forward

If you are a high school or college student and have been charged with a crime, or if you are the parent or guardian of a student who is facing criminal charges, you should speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer can help protect a young person’s future. Your lawyer will represent you in court, challenge the prosecution’s evidence, and work to have the charges reduced, the case dismissed, or for a Not Guilty Verdict. A lawyer can also help minimize the extra-judicial consequences of a criminal accusation by representing students during internal disciplinary proceedings.

If you or someone you care about has been charged with a crime, the Fargo, North Dakota criminal defense lawyers at Fremstad Law are here to move you forward. Contact criminal defense attorney Nick Thornton today by calling (701) 639-2326.