University Disciplinary Hearings in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney

Disciplinary hearings at universities are serious matters that can lead to harsh academic consequences such as suspension and expulsion. Sometimes there may also be a criminal prosecution if the university administration or the victim reports the matter to the police. Fortunately, students have the right to seek legal advice and representation from a criminal defense attorney in the face of a disciplinary hearing and should do so immediately upon receiving notice of the hearing.

University or college disciplinary hearings are unlike criminal court proceedings. They are a type of kangaroo court in that the proceeding is one-sided and unfair. They are informal hearings conducted by a university administrator or hearing officer with no legal background. The rules of evidence do not apply and hearsay is allowed. The hearing officer is essentially the prosecutor, jury & judge and ultimately decides the fate of the accused student. The accused student does not have access to the detailed report of their accuser prior to the hearing and is told what the allegations are by the hearing officer and asked to admit or deny the allegations. The accused student can bring witnesses and an attorney except the attorney may not speak. The standard in a disciplinary hearing is low. It is a preponderance of the evidence. It is not the standard used in criminal courts which is beyond a reasonable doubt. Preponderance of the evidence means the accused is probably guilty (51% or more) of the behavior/actions alleged by the victim.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault (Rape) is a serious criminal offense. Many colleges and universities take special precautions to protect their students from sexual assault. Unfortunately, heightened concern for victims can compromise the rights of the accused student such that the accused is presumed guilty in this hearing. In many sexual assault cases there is no evidence or witnesses to confirm the assault and some cases come down to a she-said he-said scenario. These allegations carry heavy consequences and can likely lead to a criminal prosecution under California Penal Code section 261 punishable by a state prison sentence and lifetime sex registration.

Violence and Fighting

Violence and threats of violence can result in disciplinary measures. Because these crimes not only compromise student safety, but also lead to injuries, they carry serious consequences. Similarly, university disciplinary hearings for violent crimes and fighting can result in criminal charges, typically under one of these statutes:

  • Penal Code 240 - Assault
  • Penal Code 243 - Battery
  • Penal Code 422 – Criminal Threats
  • Penal Code 245 (a)(4) – Assault Likely to Produce Bodily Injury
  • Penal Code 245(a)(1) – Assault with a Deadly Weapon
  • Penal Code 626.10(h) Dirk or Dagger on University Campus Property Crimes.

Theft and Property Crimes

Disciplinary hearings for property crimes (such as theft or vandalism) are grounds for discipline under most school and university conduct codes. Like violent crimes and sexual assault, most property crime allegations on campus can lead to criminal charges. However, the punishments for theft and vandalism are significantly lighter than those associated with a violent crime.

Drugs and Alcohol

Drug & alcohol abuse issues are not taken lightly on college campuses, but academic standards today reflect a better understanding of addiction issues than they did in the past. Many universities are more likely to address substance abuse and addition matters with outpatient rehab, AA meetings, and other treatments instead of automatically expelling students. Cases involving sales or distribution of drugs will result in stiffer penalties, not only from the university but law enforcement.

Academic Dishonesty

Academic dishonesty (cheating) is a serious violation at virtually any university or college. Even though cheating rarely draws attention from law enforcement, it can cause serious academic setbacks. Common forms of academic dishonesty include:

  • Cheating
  • Falsifying Documents
  • Lying
  • Plagiarism.

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer

Having a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner can make a significant difference in the outcome of the disciplinary hearing. The attorney can provide invaluable assistance to the student by:

  • Investigating whether a police report was filed and determining whether a criminal case would be filed;
  • Reviewing the University's Student Code of Conduct
  • Reviewing and evaluating all available evidence prior to the hearing;
  • Doing a background check on the accuser through court records and searching through social media;
  • Preparing the student for the hearing by providing questions likely asked at the hearing;
  • Reviewing and preparing witnesses that will testify for the student;
  • Preparing & submitting questions to the hearing officer to be asked of the accuser
  • Ensuring the hearing officer follows proper hearing procedures and does not intimidate the student into making statements he or she would not likely make otherwise;
  • Evaluating and deciding whether the student should respond to questions at the hearing that could incriminate him or her.

If you or your son or daughter is facing a disciplinary hearing at a college or university, contact a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners today. Whether you have been arrested, are under investigation, or are facing charges, we will evaluate your case, explain your legal options and provide you with the best strategy to prevail at the hearing and avoid criminal prosecution. We have represented many students in Los Angeles who were facing serious charges including sexual and drug charges and have produced favorable outcomes which saved their futures, careers, and reputation.