Pittsburgh Campus Crime Lawyer
The Pittsburgh area is home to numerous colleges and more than 100,000 college students. In that large a population of young people ̶ many away from home for the first time, and a good portion from out of state—it’s inevitable that some will be charged with criminal offenses of various kinds and will need the help of a Pittsburgh campus crime lawyer. It’s just as unsurprising that many will be charged with violating the student code of conduct at their college. Least surprising of all is how upset the student’s family becomes at the prospect of foolish behavior endangering the student’s education and future.
In a few cases, of course, the crimes are major, like rape, murder, manslaughter, and sexual assault. But, by and large, most of the crimes with which students are charged are minor—“summary offenses” in the Pennsylvania scheme of criminal laws ̶ and most times it is the student’s first offense. The majority of student offenses, in fact, involve alcohol or drugs in one form or another: underage drinking, DUI, simple possession of marijuana, disorderly conduct, public intoxication, public urination because they are drunk or high. The unfortunate tendency of young people to “mouth off” to police when intoxicated doesn’t help, either.
Given that the criminal charge may well also be a violation of the school’s code of conduct, and that statements and discussion with school authorities could end up affecting the criminal charge, it’s all too easy for students without the help of a criminal attorney and who lack wise legal advice to end up with convictions that affect their job prospects, their standing in school, and their right to drive, even though the criminal charge was a minor one.
Beware the College Disciplinary Process
Student codes of conduct exist at every educational institution. The terms vary considerably, but all provide for disciplinary hearings for students who have been accused of violating the code. Many criminal offenses, whether they occur on or off campus, can be considered violations of the code of conduct. There is no guarantee that the criminal charges will be resolved before the school conducts its own investigation and hearing.
It’s important for a student facing a code of conduct violation to remember that statements to school administrators, other students, and campus police and health authorities may come back to hurt them in the criminal case, yet the student’s failure to cooperate can make it more likely that the school imposes punishment of its own, which could include expulsion. With the complexities of college crimes, it’s important to hire a Pittsburgh campus crimes attorney even for minor violations.
Pretrial Diversion Programs, a Student’s Best Friend
Pretrial diversion programs are designed to give people an opportunity to avoid the criminal process. They target the offenders who are unlikely to be dangerous and likely to avoid trouble once the offense at hand is behind them. The programs function much like probation without any finding that the offender is guilty of anything. In essence, they are tailor-made for minor offenses by college students who are first time offenders.
Participation is voluntary. Several conditions are imposed and when the offender successfully satisfies the conditions, the case is dismissed entirely with no finding of guilt.
In Pennsylvania, the primary form of pretrial diversion is known as ARD (Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition). For summary (minor) offenses, diversion into the ARD program occurs before the case is filed in court; the terms of the program and the summary offenses to which it applies can vary from county to county.
The Allegheny County ARD program is for first offenders charged with non-violent offenses. In addition to restitution and court costs, conditions to be fulfilled for the case to be dismissed may, depending on the nature of the offense, include:
- Community Service
- Classes on anger management, domestic abuse, etc.
- Treatment for substance abuse or mental health issues
- DUI classes
- Retail Theft classes
Before Charges are Filed is the Best Time to Get a College Crimes Lawyer
Getting an experienced Pittsburgh college crimes attorney involved even before criminal charges are filed has several benefits:
- You know how to deal with the school’s inquiries and disciplinary proceedings without potentially hurting your criminal case.
- You have the best chance of getting into a pretrial diversion program like ARD before the criminal system gets into gear.
- You and your family will have a much better idea of what to expect, which usually lowers the anxiety level considerably.
Pittsburgh Campus Crime Lawyer Gary Gerson Can Help
If you or your child is concerned about criminal charges that have been or might be filed, give Pittsburgh criminal lawyer Gary Gerson a call. Gary has more than 25 years criminal defense experience in the Pittsburgh area and throughout Western Pennsylvania, in both state and federal courts. He understands the importance of keeping a student’s record clean, and knows how trying it can be for families when the dream of college turns into the reality of criminal proceedings. He can take many steps to keep the case from ever seeing a courtroom and may be able to prevent a student’s records from ever showing that the offense was charged. Contact us today.