Every year, thousands of college students are arrested for crimes ranging from misdemeanor DUI to serious felony offenses like rape and aggravated assault. Unfortunately for the falsely accused, an acquittal (finding of “not guilty”) or case dismissal isn’t always the end of the matter. Continue reading to hear a Philadelphia criminal attorney explain whether Pennsylvania college students can be expelled over criminal charges that do not result in a conviction.

Can a College Student Be Expelled for Charges that Don’t Result in Conviction in pennsylvania?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about 27,600 on-campus crimes were reported at public and private universities during 2013 alone, including 15,500 burglaries, 5,000 sex crimes, and 3,000 instances of motor vehicle theft. Regardless of whether an alleged crime is violent or non-violent, the legal consequences – as well as the consequences for the student’s educational career – can be devastating.

It’s important to draw a distinction between alleged policy violations, which can trigger a wide array of sanctions depending on the university’s disciplinary system, and alleged crimes, which can lead to a prosecutor formally filing charges. If a violation of school policy also happens to constitute a criminal offense, such as rape, the police will investigate the suspected crime independently of any internal proceedings by the university. Therefore, even if a criminal case ends up being dismissed, or if a trial results in acquittal, the university may nonetheless decide to expel the student.

Each university has its own system for investigating and punishing alleged violations of school policy. The unfortunate reality for innocent students is that a mere allegation of a serious violation is often sufficient to result in expulsion. Ultimately, it depends on the school’s policies, which vary from college to college.

To use a real-world example of the potential repercussions for college students accused of criminal offenses, let’s examine the University of Pennsylvania’s policy handbook on the subject of alleged sexual assault offenses, and how they are handled internally by the university. The following is excerpted directly from the handbook:

“The University disciplinary process at Penn may involve the following stages:

  • Bringing a Complaint to the Office of Student Conduct
  • Resolving a Complaint by Mediation
  • Investigating a Complaint
  • Filing Charges by the University against a Student
  • Resolving Charges by Voluntary Agreement to Sanctions
  • Resolving Charges by Disciplinary Hearing
  • Appealing the Decision of a Hearing Panel
  • Imposing Sanctions on a Student
  • Fulfilling Sanctions Imposed by the University”

As you can see by reading this list, many different university-imposed outcomes can result from an allegation against a student – regardless of a criminal case’s outcome in Philadelphia Municipal Court or other courts.

There is also another important consideration to keep in mind: an internal proceeding conducted by a university will generally have a lower standard of proof – in other words, what needs to be proven for the accused to be convicted and penalized – than a criminal trial. While a criminal defendant must be proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” in order to be convicted of the alleged offense, university hearings may require only that the student be proven guilty by a “preponderance of the evidence,” or by “clear and convincing evidence.” Because these are less rigorous standards of proof, it is more likely that a university hearing will result in a finding that the student committed the offense. This increases the risk of expulsion or other serious sanctions.

Criminal Defense Lawyer lauren wimmer can help if Your Son or Daughter Was Arrested

If your son or daughter was charged with a crime on or off campus while attending Temple University, Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, Saint Joseph’s University, Community College of Philadelphia, or other colleges in the Philadelphia area, make sure that his or her legal rights will be protected by an experienced Philadelphia defense lawyer, like Lauren Wimmer, founding attorney at Wimmer Criminal Defense Law.

Lauren Wimmer has extensive experience representing college students who have been charged with felonies and misdemeanors, including but not limited to DUI, assault, harassment, stalking, vandalism, weapons possession, drug possession, and possession with intent to distribute (PWID). Lauren Wimmer is also qualified to represent juvenile defendants, such as college freshmen who were charged with crimes while under the age of 18. Juveniles are tried in different courts and are subject to different legal procedures than adults.

Even a minor criminal charge can completely derail your son or daughter’s academic career. If he or she has been charged with a crime, it is critical that you take steps today to protect your child’s future tomorrow. To set up a free and confidential legal consultation concerning your son or daughter’s criminal charges, contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law immediately at (215) 712-1212. We represent adult and juvenile defendants in the Philadelphia area.