College students should launch vigorous defense against criminal charges

Missouri university and college students can find themselves under suspicion for a variety of serious crimes.

Crime on or near college and university campuses in St. Louis, throughout Missouri and across the country are reported on the news all too often. When a college student is accused of violating campus rules or of an actual crime, much is at stake.

If convicted of a crime, the student could face lifelong negative repercussions from having a criminal record that can limit personal and professional options and harm his or her reputation. Sanctions could include fines, jail and more. Certain drug convictions could put federal student financial aid in jeopardy.

Campus disciplinary proceedings could result in loss of academic or athletic privileges, termination of scholarships and other negative repercussions, including potential expulsion.

Because of the seriousness of the potential consequences, any young student under investigation by a university, by campus security or by local law enforcement should seek legal representation as soon as possible. An attorney will launch a vigorous defense of the student, including conducting a timely investigation on behalf of the potential defendant.

A lawyer can advocate for a student both before university disciplinary authorities and against government prosecutors and in court, if necessary. Legal counsel may be able to negotiate a settlement of the matter with the school, get criminal charges dismissed or reach a plea agreement with prosecutors, if appropriate. If the matter ends up in a university hearing or in court, the attorney can advocate forcefully for the student's interests.

Hate crime allegations

Missouri campuses have not been immune to the recent focus on hate crimes.

In December 2016, a janitor in a Webster University dorm found homophobic and racist flyers around the door of a student of color, according to the college newspaper The Journal. The school reported the act as a hate crime to the U.S. Department of Education.

In February 2017, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported the arrest of two University of Missouri students who allegedly had made ongoing anti-Semitic comments to a Jewish student, which could result in a charge of first-degree harassment under state law, a felony that could bring prison time for a conviction. According to the March 1 article, the cases had been referred to the county prosecutor's office for consideration and the university could bring disciplinary action, including expulsion.

Alcohol and drug violations

It is no secret that alcohol and drug use on campuses across the country is excessive and needs to be addressed to keep all students safe. Many criminal charges can result from such activity such as underage drinking, DWI, drug possession, drug trafficking or manufacturing, prescription drug fraud and more.

As an example, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in December 2016 that documents released by the University of Missouri-Columbia show that almost half of the fraternities associated with the university were on probation, mostly for alcohol abuse, but also for hazing. In one incident after which the fraternity chapter in question had their university recognition revoked, a new fraternity pledge reportedly had the dangerous blood alcohol level or BAC of 0.34.

Seek legal advice

Any Missouri college student under investigation for or accused or one of these kinds of crimes or any other crime should immediately consult with a criminal defense attorney. Likewise, any parent of such a student who is concerned about such a development should assist with securing legal counsel.

The St. Louis attorneys at Sindel, Sindel & Noble, P.C., defend university and college students at St. Louis-area schools like Washington University, Webster University, Saint Louis University, Maryville University, the University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis Community College and others as well as students from campuses across Missouri.