A Former Prosecutor Defending Clients in Wyoming and South Dakota
High school and college students who have been accused of a crime not only face the legal consequences of a criminal conviction; they must also contend with how a criminal conviction will impact them at school, and the long-term implications of having a criminal record.
Every educational institution has different internal policies about how to deal with students who have been accused of criminal activity. Most of these policies include some type of disciplinary action. The severity of the internal discipline will vary based on the nature of the crime. Minor violations may result in suspension or a probation period, while more serious crimes may lead to expulsion.
In the short-term, students face the fines and penalties associated with the crime itself. But there are other collateral consequences that will arise now and in the future, as young people apply to colleges and for jobs.
A criminal conviction may make it difficult for high school students to be accepted into certain college programs and may make the student ineligible for scholarships or financial aid. Certain convictions may make a student ineligible for certain housing options.
High school and college students will, of course, be subject to any punishments enforced by the court. Students who are under age 18 will, in all but the most serious cases, have their case handled in the juvenile court, and their record will be sealed once they turn 21. Students who are 18 years or older are legally recognized as adults and will have their cases heard by the local criminal court.
Criminal punishments will vary based on the nature of the crime. Common crimes committed by young people include:
Even though most of these charges are misdemeanors, a conviction can still have serious consequences.
Between 60 and 80 percent of private colleges and 55 percent of public institutions require that applicants answer questions about their criminal history as part of the application process. Disclosing a criminal conviction can lead to extensive reporting requirements, and may even result in the applicant being forced to pay the costs of a background check.
Since 1998, Congress has prohibited financial aid applicants who have drug-related convictions from receiving financial aid including Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and work-study. In 2007 this prohibition was limited to offenses that occurred while a student was receiving financial aid. Nonetheless, a criminal conviction can create a barrier to higher education. As post-secondary education has become increasingly important for career success, a criminal history makes college admission more difficult.
A criminal conviction, especially at a young age, can make it more difficult to find and pursue many employment opportunities. Most employers perform a background check on potential employees and, if they find a criminal conviction, they may not offer you a job. This is especially true if you intend to work in a job where you will have direct contact with children.
High school and college athletes who have been charged with a crime are subject to prosecution and punishment just like everyone else. However, high school and college athletic programs often hold student-athletes to a code of conduct that would be violated if the student-athlete was charged with or convicted of a crime. High school and college athletes who have been charged with a crime might lose valuable scholarships, have financial aid packages revoked, or be subject to expulsion.
Some schools have an extrajudicial process for students who have been accused of crimes. These processes often deal with alleged violations of ethics codes and review may involve going before an elected or appointed board of students and administrators that hears arguments from both sides and makes a decision about penalties.
When student-athletes are accused of a crime, the school’s athletic director often has the final say.
If you have been charged with a crime and are a high school or college student, talk to experienced criminal defense attorney Christina L. Williams and her team of criminal defense professionals. We will work with you to explore possible options including building a strong defense, seeking dismissal or the charges, and trying to resolve the matter both within the court system and through the school’s administrative process.
An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help by limiting the consequences of a criminal conviction, presenting your defense in court and through the school’s administrative process, and can negotiate with prosecutors to create a plea arrangement that will minimize the impact of a conviction on your future.
You only have one shot at justice - don’t leave it to chance.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only. This information is not offered as legal advice. A person accused of a crime should always consult with an attorney before making decisions that have legal consequences.