Criminal charges against college students are more common than most people think. Although college students are generally law abiding people, their youth and inexperience inevitably lead to mistakes. Many of students are living away from home for the first time and experiencing a degree of freedom to which they are unaccustomed. Unfortunately, it is fairly common under these circumstances for students to experiment with alcohol and drugs. Heck, even our presidents -- at least three out of the last four -- have admitted to engaging in this type of behavior during their college years. Some students are caught, but many others are not. When they are caught, these youthful indiscretions can lead to serious trouble with local authorities. For a college student with an otherwise promising future, this can be devastating.
A surprising number of college students are arrested every year for various crimes. According to the University of Arizona's 2013 Annual Campus Safety, Security and Fire Safety Report, from 2010 to 2012: 1829 students were arrested for alcohol related offenses and 561 students were arrested for drug-related offenses. The statistics at ASU are undoubtedly even worse. All kidding aside, that's a lot of arrests and a lot of young lives that may have been negatively affected by the criminal justice system. It should be noted that these statistics only include arrests made on campus and not arrests of college students made off campus. There were also large numbers of students who were not arrested, but faced disciplinary action for alcohol or drug related offenses.
Of course, college students are involved in others crimes as well, many of which are related to alcohol or drug use. Some of the most common criminal charges against college students include:
- Underage Drinking - A student who is under 21 and is caught drinking, or even has alcohol in his body, can be charged with this misdemeanor offense. If the student is driving, he can also be charged with a separate offense of driving with alcohol in the body (which is commonly referred to as a "Baby DUI"), even if their blood alcohol concentration is below the legal limit. Furnishing alcohol to other minors is also a misdemeanor offense.
- DUI - Most DUI's, especially first-time DUIs, are misdemeanors. Even a misdemeanor DUI conviction, however, carries some pretty severe mandatory penalties that include jail time. If a student is DUI while his driver's license is suspended or while he has a minor under fifteen years of age in the vehicle, or if a student is charged with a third DUI within seven years, he can be charged with felony Aggravated DUI. Even a first time Aggravated DUI conviction requires a minimum of four-months in prison.
- Drug Possession / Distribution - This is usually charged as a felony, except in some cases involving very small amounts of marijuana. If the amount of drugs involved exceeds certain thresholds, a prison sentence is mandatory.
- Possession of a Fake ID - This is a very common crime off campus. It is normally a misdemeanor offense, but could conceivably be charged as a felony Forgery.
- Disorderly Conduct - Many people call this "disturbing the peace". It is normally charged as a misdemeanor, but can be charged as a felony under some circumstances. This crime encompasses a wide range of conduct, from playing music too loudly to firing a gun in the air.
- Assault - The crime of assault includes relatively minor conduct, like pushing someone (a misdemeanor), and very serious conduct, like shooting or stabbing someone (felony Aggravated Assault, Deadly Weapon). Even a fistfight can result in felony charges depending on the injuries that result.
- Sexual Assault / Date Rape - This is a serious felony offense and has been a growing problem on college campuses. According to an article in the Arizona Daily Wildcat, fraternities in particular are becoming the focus of a recent "crack down" on sexual assault.
- Indecent Exposure - This can be as innocuous as urinating in public or going outside without wearing clothes. It is typically charged as a misdemeanor, but the law allows a judge the discretion to require sex offender registration upon conviction!
When a student is caught committing one of these crimes on campus by a school staff member, like a resident assistant ("RA"), the incident may simply be dealt with internally with various disciplinary measures. If the police are involved, however, a student is likely to wind up in court facing criminal charges that could potentially affect the rest of his or her life. A criminal conviction, even if it is just a misdemeanor, can have serious repercussions like:
- Having a permanent criminal record
- Making it more difficult to obtaining student loans
- Making it more difficult to get into graduate school
- Making it more difficult to find a good job
If you are a college student, or know a college student that has been charged with a crime, it is imperative that you consult an experienced Tucson criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Facing criminal charges -- often while far from home and without the immediate assistance of family -- can be very stressful. Additionally, a college student may have more to lose than other people facing the same charges, so it is important to do everything possible to avoid conviction. If nothing else, a good criminal defense attorney can mitigate the potential negative repercussions of criminal charges.
* This blog is published by Tucson DUI and criminal defense lawyer Nathan D. Leonardo. Nothing on this website is intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein does not constitute legal advice, but is for general information purposes only. If you have a legal question, you can contact us online or call (520) 314-4125.