Criminal Charges in College – Campus Police
While sitting at Gate C3 at the Nashville airport yesterday, I received back-to-back panicked calls from mothers of, let’s say, University of Anytown students.
I was returning home to Charlotte after touring a prospective college with my teen-aged daughter.
As a criminal defense lawyer in North Carolina, Labor Day and the following weeks tend to be busy for us.
It’s the beginning of the academic calendar and with that comes both misdemeanor and felony criminal charges.
In our line of business, criminal charges, both serious and minor, are expected this time of year.
That’s one reason we take emergency calls even on major holidays and weekends. That’s when things happen.
And as the parent of a young adult, one looking at colleges, I can more than empathize with a parent freaked out about the well-being of a child.
We’re here to help.
“He’s a good kid. . .”
“I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times, but he’s a good kid.”
Almost word for word, that is indeed what we hear from parents.
I can’t say it’s been a million times; but, we have heard that opening reassurance a lot.
It’s entirely normal and understandable.
It doesn’t matter whether the allegations involve underage drinking and possession of marijuana or sexual assault charges.
First-contact often begins with speaking to a frantic mother or father of a student.
That’s how the process of retaining a lawyer normally begins.
It is rare indeed for a +/- 20-year-old college student to call us.
College kids don’t always fully understand they’re playing with the tail of a viper, not recognizing the dangers of the fangs attached to the other end.
That’s OK. I’m a parent. If my daughter “Mookie” got in trouble, I’d be the one talking to the criminal lawyer.
Our job is not to judge you, your child, or your parenting skills. There is no reason to be embarassed – Bill Powers, Criminal Defense Attorney
We understand good kids can occasionally make bad mistakes.
We also understand being charged with an offense does not necessarily mean your child did anything wrong or illegal.
The question is, “What can we do to possibly get the charges dismissed?”
The follow-up question thereafter is, “Can I get my charges expunged?”
To be clear, that is our goal.
While we cannot promise any result in criminal court, it is our steadfast desire to avoid criminal convictions when and if possible.
At a minimum, we seek to ameliorate the negative long-term consequences of an out-of-character mistake.
That’s kind of the whole point of retaining a criminal defense lawyer.
We also have come to understand over the years that Jr. may tend to lessen his level culpability and/or not fully disclose the full fact-pattern to parents.
It can be embarrassing telling your mom or dad what happened, knowing they will likely be terribly disappointed if not very angry.
It’s one reason we want to immediately speak with the student ourselves as part of the consultation and possible legal representation.
Calling “time out” and taking a good look at what’s happening is a really good idea.
How to handle criminal charges
Rule 1: Campus Police are real police officers
Of the two calls yesterday, one mother of a still technically “child” college student had been contacted by University Police.
Clearly, she didn’t realize the detective was a real-live, full-blown law enforcement officer when she stated, “She’s not a real police officer.”
Yes, she is.
Make no mistake, campus police carry guns and handcuffs.
They can arrest students. They can institute charges. They can encourage the prosecutor to seek a felony indictment.
Rule 2: Talk to a lawyer before doing anything
It is our longstanding policy to advise the accused (and his or her parents) to exercise the Right to Remain silent.
Do not give a statement. Politely request to speak with legal counsel. Do not cooperate with the investigation.
That applies to university officials, Resident Assistants, classmates, friends, professors, etc.
Stop talking. Retain legal counsel immediately. Lawyer up.
That does not mean or assume you’re guilty.
It’s better to understand the nature and extent of the allegations, carefully consider the benefits and detriments of giving a statement, and reserve judgment until more information becomes available.
It’s also your Constitutional Right.
College students can be at a tremendous disadvantage, thinking they are required to talk to university officials, college staff, Title IX investigators, student court personnel, and even law enforcement officers.
Parents also may not understand the legal processes and implications of matters that are often on the record and subject to criminal review.
As defense attorneys, we regularly reach out to law enforcement officials, police, and detectives to gather information.
We believe it’s better for a lawyer to do that, instead of the student or parent.
We’re experienced handling such matters and we often are able to gauge, with some level of accuracy, the severity of the allegations.
Clearly, police prefer to get statements.
They may even be a bit ticked-off that a student has chosen to retain counsel.
You may have heard people say, “Don’t just stand there, do something.”
In law, we have found the exact opposite is the better course of action.
“Don’t just do something, stand there.”
Rule 3: Title IX Investigators and Campus Police Investigations
Inter-collegiate investigations, including Title IX inquiries, are common with criminal charges.
Possession of an alcoholic beverage by a minor or “minor in possession charges” can and sometimes do result in a referral to the Dean of Students or a student board of conduct.
Speaking with university officials may carry consequences, including suspension, expulsion, and other administrative penalties.
That’s true even if criminal charges are rejected by law enforcement and the prosecutor.
The respective agencies may disclose information with one another.
Furthermore, in certain instances, Title IX officials may choose to proceed forward with the prosecution of a case, even without the consent of the complaining party or “victim.”
Campus Police and Criminal Charges
Timing is often key, given law enforcement, college officials, and even residence hall officials take all criminal charges seriously, acting with due haste in collecting evidence.
They’re required to.
If even accused of breaking the law or being advised “you’re a suspect,” it’s imperative to seek legal representation without delay.
Speaking with Title IX investigators, Campus Police, Detectives, Resident Assistants, Roommates, et al is a common evidence-gathering protocol.
That’s one reason it makes sense to speak only with your lawyer with the protection of attorney-client privilege.
Does the type of criminal charges matter?
Yes, some criminal offenses are more serious than others.
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, underage possession of alcohol, and possession of marijuana are normally relatively minor misdemeanors.
Rape, Statutory Rape, First Degree Sex Offenses, felony assault, battery, guns on campus, weapons charges, etc., are more serious and may involve getting arrested for both misdemeanor and felony charges.
It’s normal to be upset about the Fake ID charges your college student received, knowing full well the possible consequences which may or may not include the possibility of expulsion from school.
If you’re the parent of a college-aged student, it’s understandable that any form of criminal investigation or allegations could send you over the edge.
It’s what we as parents fear most: Children away from home for the first time, exposed to alcohol, drugs, and a world of potential dangers.
You’ve worked hard to give your child every opportunity.
Criminal charges, it doesn’t matter if it’s a felony or misdemeanor, aren’t really in the plan.
It’s hard to imagine a child doing anything wrong, making a mistake, or being accused of a sexual battery, rape, or another form of college sexual assault.
Here’s are some truths that may help you:
- It’s better to speak with a legal professional than scour the internet for information
- Campus Police are “real” police officers
- A Title IX Investigation may result in and work in cooperation/coordination with criminal prosecution by Campus Police
- Don’t rely on anecdotal evidence or what well-meaning friends or family advise.
- Each case is different
- Each client is different
- The criminal laws in North Carolina are different from other states
- What you believe should be the law may not be the law
- Don’t believe or disbelieve 100% of what your child is telling you
- Sound legal advice from an experienced defense lawyer will likely help alleviate some of your anxiety
- Defense lawyers normally do not charge we legal consultations (our law firm doesn’t)
- Everything you tell a criminal defense attorney is confidential, even during consultation(s)
- Many criminal attorneys charge flat rates and accept payments (our law office does)
- We’ll want to speak your son or daughter about the charges
- We may ask tough questions
- We may “call” students on inconsistencies
- We understand you didn’t raise your kids to break the law
- We understand this is a challenging time for both parents and students
- We understand your fears and worries about the well-being of your children
- Chances are, we may say some of the very things you’ve told/warned your student about for year after year
- Sometimes students take our advice more than that offered by parents
- We were once young adults and very much empathize it’s normal to make mistakes
Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorney Bill Powers
Give us a ring, we really are here to help.
Don’t worry about being embarrassed. You don’t need to convince us you have a good kid.
There are few people I believe are truly bad. Good people make mistakes. The key is how we make amends and hopefully change for the better – Bill Powers
Call Bill Powers NOW: 704-342-4357
Email Bill Powers directly: Bill@CarolinaAttorneys.com