Message to Students
I enjoyed my time when I was an undergrad student at Penn State, and not all of the activities with which I was involved were legal. Fortunately for me, I was never caught. Since you are checking out a criminal defense lawyer’s website, you probably were not so fortunate.
The environment at Penn State and in State College is much different now than it was when I was a student. While some officers still issue warnings and do not issue citations or file criminal charges for all illegal activity, officers are less inclined to simply issue warnings. Many people are also surprised to discover that the police file charges and also follow up with the prosecution of the charges by appearing in court.
If you were charged and have questions, I encourage you to call me, attorney Jason Dunkle of JD Law at (814) 954-7622. We can talk about your options in a free initial consultation.
Two Penalties — Criminal Charges and Penn State Disciplinary System
Regrettably, when a student gets into trouble, the student often faces criminal charges that will be handled through the court system as well as disciplinary sanctions through the school, be it Penn State, Lock Haven, or Juniata. While you only did one thing wrong, you can, and often will be, punished twice.
The rules, procedures, and punishments are very different for the criminal system and the school disciplinary process, so different strategies are often used to obtain the best results. One defense strategy may work in the criminal process, but the same strategy may produce counter-productive results in the disciplinary setting.
I have represented hundreds of Penn State students at both University Park and Altoona, so I have a considerable amount of experience in dealing with the criminal and disciplinary systems.
Small Charges Can Have Big Impacts on Your Future
I often receive phone calls from students or their parents AFTER they followed the legal advice of the police officer, the court staff, or an inexperienced lawyer, and at that point, it is often too late.
I routinely hear, “But the officer told me that the charge wasn’t a big deal; it is like a speeding ticket, and it won’t appear on a criminal background search.” Based upon the bad advice, the person pleads guilty and discovers after the fact that the charge does appear on a background search, and because of the charge, the person cannot get a job or go to grad school.
- A Penn State grad took bad advice and pleaded guilty to a summary offense of public drunkenness, and because of that guilty plea, he could not be admitted into an intensive nursing program.
- Another client was charged with a summary charge of Possession of a Fake ID, and if he had pleaded guilty or been convicted, he would have been prohibited from working on the stock market floor in New York.
Many non-criminal defense lawyers are not aware that a fake ID charge is considered a crimen falsi offense, meaning a crime involving dishonesty, which puts the charge in a category of offenses that include theft, forgery, and perjury. Such charges are awful on a criminal record check, especially for people in the accounting or financial fields.
Obviously, some charges are more severe than others. A person charged with a felony offense of drug delivery or possession with intent to deliver faces a felony criminal record, possible jail time, expulsion from school, and loss of financial aid. A person charged with public drunkenness faces a less severe criminal record, a fine, some counseling classes for the school, but a conviction may prohibit a person from getting a job or going to grad school.
Get a Free Review of Your Case by an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
Every case should be reviewed to see if the charges can be dismissed or minimized to reduce the short- and long-term effects. As discussed above, the worst decision you can make is to seek legal advice from anyone other than an experienced criminal defense lawyer.
How do you know if the lawyer is knowledgeable and trustworthy? You should review this list of qualities in seeking advice from a lawyer.
When dealing with the short- and long-term ramifications of criminal charges, the old adage that “ignorance is bliss” is not correct. You do not want to learn the hard way that you followed bad advice that had a negative impact on your future and it is too late to fix the problem.
Most State College criminal defense attorneys offer free consultations, so there is no excuse for not talking to an experienced lawyer about your case. For a free case review from a Penn State alum, contact my office by calling (814) 954-7622 or via email.