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College Discipline Attorney

Virtually every college and university in the U.S. has a code of conduct that applies to its student body. While not having the force of law, this code of conduct subjects students to various sanctions if they violate its terms. Generally speaking, if you are accused of violating the code of conduct, you will receive a notice of a disciplinary violation and may be called before a hearing committee. Unfortunately, the rights afforded to you in the disciplinary process are often weak and arbitrary. Schools are free to run their campus judicial systems using standards of due process, evidence, and confidentiality far below even the minimum standards that apply in either federal or state judicial venues. 

Too often, college students do not recognize the severity of a code of conduct violation and you may think you can handle the allegations yourself. You may also feel embarrassment or shame and do not want your friends and family to find out and, therefore, decide not to consult with an attorney. 

As a college student, you may not be aware that anything you say or do can be used in the school’s investigation and also may be used against you in future criminal proceedings. An experienced student defense attorney can advise you confidentially from the beginning and help you navigate your institution’s specific policies, practices, rules, and regulations to make sure you’re getting the maximum benefit of whatever rights your school does afford you, and to minimize the impact of any allegations and findings. Being extremely well prepared before you answer any charge in writing or verbally or appear at any hearing is the key to your successful defense. 

Disciplinary Hearing

Many students and their parents are under the mistaken impression that a disciplinary hearing conducted by an educational institution is a mere formality and a way to put a student through an uncomfortable proceeding that is intended to be a punishment in itself. In reality, disciplinary hearings at colleges and universities are often legitimate fact-finding proceedings that are subject to complicated procedural and substantive rules. Furthermore, the outcomes of disciplinary hearings can have a significant impact on a student’s academic and professional life for years to come. For this reason, it is critical that you do not underestimate the complexity of the hearing process and to go into it with as much information and assistance as possible. 

Advice and Counsel

Some educational institutions may not allow attorneys or other non-school personnel to attend a hearing, interview, or meeting involving an alleged disciplinary violation. If you find yourself or your child in this situation, you may feel helpless and uncertain about how to proceed. It is important to keep in mind that the fact that an attorney cannot attend a particular proceeding does not mean an attorney cannot be of assistance. An attorney familiar with college code violation proceedings may be able to help students and their parents in a number of ways, including the following: 

  • Investigate the case and determine whether there is any evidence that tends to strengthen a student’s argument that there was no violation 
  • Explain the disciplinary process to students and parents 
  • Advise students and their parents about the possible outcomes of the case 
  • Determine whether the school is in violation of its own rules or any applicable state or federal laws 
  • Prepare students for the types of questions they may need to answer 

Simply assuming that the truth is on your side or that the school is just trying to slap a student on the wrist by conducting a hearing is a mistake that could have far-reaching and long-term professional consequences. For this reason, it is important to consult with a lawyer about your options, even if the institution alleging a code violation does not allow lawyers to be involved in the hearing process. 

Criminal Sexual Harassment and Assault

Allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault that implicate Title IX are of special concern to colleges and universities around the country, especially in light of high-profile cases and social commentary regarding a permissive attitude toward “rape culture” on campus. As a result, when these types of allegations are leveled against a student, the educational institution is under tremendous pressure to deal with the case as quickly as possible, as failure to do so could have a significant and adverse impact on its national reputation. In addition, swift and decisive action regarding allegations of sexual misconduct may dissuade others from engaging in questionable conduct, further incentivizing colleges and universities to deal with these kinds of cases quickly and judiciously. 

While the desire to handle Title IX violations quickly may be well-intentioned and understandable, the unfortunate reality is that doing so can often result in hastily prepared and incomplete investigations and hearings. For this reason, it is critical for anyone accused of sexual misconduct by a college or university to retain an attorney familiar with representing college students involved in these kinds of cases. 

Importantly, the outcome of a sexual misconduct case conducted by a college or university may also result in criminal consequences. As a result, students accused of sexual violations often face suspension or expulsion and may also face jail time and a criminal conviction that could potentially affect them for the rest of their lives. 

Code of Conduct Sanctions 

If your college or university’s hearing board determines that you did, in fact, violate your school’s student code of conduct, there are a number of sanctions that it could potentially impose. These include formal reprimand, expulsion from student housing, loss of financial aid, suspension, or expulsion. 

Importantly, the consequences of a student code of conduct violation are not limited to those imposed by an educational institution. In many cases, there also may be a criminal case that arises from the same incident, meaning that the state may also impose its own criminal sanctions against you. A criminal conviction can adversely affect your freedom, finances, and future. 

Advocating for Victims

In addition to individuals facing accusations, the victims of any offenses that took place on college campuses are also afforded certain rights to ensure their safety and well-being during and after the hearing process. As a former prosecutor, attorney William Carlos Weeden understands the importance of victim representation. 

Protect Your Future

With so much at stake, it is critical for students who are accused of conduct code violations to do everything possible to resolve their case as favorably as possible. The representation of an attorney will ensure that you are treated fairly by the hearing board and that any parallel criminal prosecution that may exist is also resolved. It is important for you to remember that, although academic disciplinary proceedings do not occur in a court, you still have significant rights that may not be upheld without the assistance of legal counsel. For this reason, if you are accused of a code of conduct violation, you should retain legal counsel immediately. Call the Law Office of William Carlos Weeden today to schedule a confidential initial  consultation at no cost consultation. 

Law Office of William Carlos Weeden

The information on this website has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice nor create an attorney-client relationship or warrant that a certain result will be attained in a specific case. The Supreme Court of Illinois does not recognize certifications of specialties in the practice of law and the certificate, award or recognition is not a requirement to practice law in Illinois. We encourage you to contact us or another legal professional for advice regarding your individual situation.

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