Depending on the severity of the offense, a student found guilty of a crime in Virginia can face a number of consequences ranging from financial aid related penalties to potential suspension or expulsion from the school at which the individual is enrolled.
Criminal charges can completely reroute a student’s life, so it is crucial for anyone accused of a criminal offense while in college to utilize all of the resources available to them, including attorney advice, in order to fully understand the disciplinary process and what penalties they may be facing.
Many actions that violate a university’s code of conduct are also viewed by the state of Virginia as criminal offenses and are therefore, by default, prohibited by state law. Therefore, if you are a student at a college or university in Virginia and are arrested off campus, your college or university will likely be notified, and you could face additional university sanctions in addition to criminal penalties .
There are a variety of different charges that students in Virginia typical face: these range from internet or computer crimes involving plagiarism, data use, and social media, to common crimes like drug possession, DUI, alcohol possession, assault, sexual assault, and gun or weapons charges. Although they are all different crimes and can range in severity, these offenses all have the potential to alter a student’s life, especially in their ability to pursue higher education or obtain employment.
Even if an alleged offense does not violate state criminal law, it may still be a violation of the school’s disciplinary code. Typically, these situations have to do with credibility or honesty and involve such offenses as plagiarizing someone else’s work or cheating on a test. These academic offenses are less likely to lead to criminal charges under state law, but can still negatively impact a student’s status at their academic institution and can lead to serious academic consequences.
In criminal cases, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution and it is therefore the prosecution’s job to prove that the accused did something wrong; however, the university’s burden of proof in code of conduct violations is often reversed, which more often than not means that the individual accused must instead prove that they did not do anything wrong.
What this difference in burdens means is that even if a student was never convicted of any crime, they may still be subjected to school disciplinary measures. Depending on the offense, these administrative sanctions can still negatively change a student’s standing at the university, and ultimately impact that student’s future.
When a student is brought before a college or university’s disciplinary board to answer for behavior allegedly in violation of the code of conduct, the student does not have the same protections as if they were in a criminal proceeding. A student is, however, allowed to have a representative or attorney by their side during such proceedings.
An attorney will be able to help the student prepare answers and questions for such hearings, and serve as a source of advice should the student have questions or be unsure whether or not to answer questions posed to them during this hearing process. An attorney can also help a student appeal a negative decision or consequences as a result of a student disciplinary hearing.
Depending on the alleged offense and the disciplinary code of the specific school, penalties administered by the school can include anything from counseling or community service to being placed on academic probation, or even expulsion.