Students can find themselves in trouble with their college or university for a broad range of issues, from criminal conduct (such as underage alcohol possession) to violations of the school’s honor code (including accidental plagiarism). The Charlotte juvenile lawyers at Randall & Stump, PLLC have experience in helping students navigate the administrative hearing process and fight against harsh disciplinary measures, such as expulsion or suspension from school.
We also help students navigate both the school disciplinary process and criminal court system when an accusation leads to trouble on both fronts.
We Represent Students at Charlotte, NC Schools
Our team at Randall & Stump PLLC represent college students of all ages at:
- University of North Carolina – Charlotte
- Queens University of Charlotte
- Johnson C. Smith University
- Central Piedmont Community College
- Johnson & Wales University – Charlotte
- Carolinas College of Health Sciences
- Wingate University
- Pfeiffer College – Charlotte
Students of any age should not hesitate to call us. We have represented juvenile college students facing crimes as minors, traditionally aged students between 18 and 22 years of age, and non-traditional college students who are returning to school after spending time working or in the military.
Common Student Misconduct
Every college and university has a code of conduct students are expected to follow. A violation of this code may not be a crime under North Carolina law, but it may be enough to lead to a disciplinary hearing and academic penalties. Students who are accused of a crime also may face disciplinary action at school in addition to criminal charges.
Our academic misconduct lawyers at Randall & Stump, PLLC represent students facing disciplinary hearings for criminal offenses and code of conduct violations. Some of the most common accusations we defend against include:
- Drug Possession
- Underage Alcohol Possession and Drinking
- Underage DWI
- Vandalism and Property Damage
- Shoplifting and Theft
- Fake ID Possession
- Weapons Possession
- Academic Dishonesty
Criminal Charges and Disciplinary Proceedings Differ Considerably
It is important you understand that a school’s disciplinary process is separate from a criminal case. A prosecutor may choose not to pursue charges, or you may be acquitted of a crime. That does not mean you won’t face disciplinary measures at school.
During a criminal case, you have many Constitutional rights, including the right to due process, a speedy trial, and legal representation. The same cannot be said for college or university disciplinary procedures. You do not have due process rights. You may not have any right to an attorney, depending on the circumstances.
Because your rights are vastly restricted during an academic disciplinary process, you need to work with a student defense attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will ensure what rights you do have remain protected.
The Disciplinary Hearing Process
One of the frustrating aspects about the academic disciplinary process is that each school is different. Every college and university has its own rules and procedures, and the process is not always student-friendly. At UNC – Charlotte, for example, students must follow the Code of Academic Integrity.
If you are dealing with accusations of a committing a crime on campus or violating your college’s code, do not try to handle the experience on your own. You could end up fumbling through an unknown process, failing to provide yourself a strong defense, therefore facing harsher consequences than you deserve.
Investigations and Hearings
When you are accused of committing a crime or of violating a code of conduct, your school may choose to investigate or immediately begin the disciplinary hearing process. As soon as you are informed of an investigation or hearing, you should contact a Charlotte academic misconduct lawyer about your rights and options. Many schools provide written notice of charges, so you have time to prepare for a hearing.
The investigation may entail administrators questioning you, and statements from other students, staff members, and faculty. They might review various types of evidence, such as photos, surveillance footage, emails, private messages, and more. If school administrators believe there is evidence to support you committed a crime or a conduct violation, they will initiate a disciplinary hearing.
On the other hand, your university may perform a precursory review of the accusations and immediately schedule a disciplinary hearing where they listen to and review evidence from both the accuser and the accused.
Most schools provide alternatives to a formal hearing. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to ask to go through an alternative dispute resolution method, such as an informal disciplinary conference or mediation.
If you plan to attend the hearing and fight the accusations, you should call a student defense lawyer to prepare.
What typically takes during a college or university disciplinary hearing includes:
- Open comments from the accuser, if applicable
- Presentation of evidence of the violation
- Questions from the hearing administrator or panel
- Closing comments from the accuser, if applicable
- The accused enters a “plea,” which means taking responsibility or denying the accusations
- Open comments by the accused
- Testimony from witnesses
- Closing comments from the accused
Schools do not follow the same rules and procedures as NC courts. Administrators do not have to follow the same evidence regulations and procedures as prosecutors in criminal courts do. Administrators and disciplinary officers can review different types of evidence, including what would be considered hearsay testimony in a criminal court.
Additionally, some schools utilize disciplinary conferences, which are not full-fledged administrative hearings. Conferences are more often used for alleged violation of university policies, rules, and regulations – not criminal conduct. This is a much more informal process in which you are expected to speak with an administrator directly.
Possible Academic Penalties
If you are found to be responsible for some type of misconduct, whether or not it constitutes a crime, the college or university can sanction you in a variety of ways, including:
- Permanent notice on your academic record
- Academic probation
- Dismissal from an academic program or department
- Permanent expulsion
- Course failure or reduction in grade
- Additional academic work
- Revocation of a degree
- Denial of endorsements for internal and external opportunities
- Refusal to provide references
- Denied access to internships, research programs, or other academic positions
- Loss of fellowship, scholarships, tuition waivers, or other support
- Write-ups that affect various aspects of your personal and professional lives
You May Have the Right to an Attorney Under North Carolina Law
Under the Students & Administration Equality Act, students of any public institution within the state have the right to legal representation or a non-attorney advocate during campus disciplinary proceedings.
North Carolina was the first state to pass a law of this kind. In most states and at most colleges and universities, students do not have the right to a lawyer even when accused of the most serious offenses. Though students may be able to consult with an attorney regarding their case, their attorney would not be able to speak for them during a hearing or even be present during some conferences or hearings.
There are exceptions to North Carolina’s law, however, for academic-specific charges like plagiarism and when a disciplinary proceeding is entirely student-run.