What Parents Need to Know

Criminal Defense Lawyer University Park

As a criminal defense attorney in State College, PA, most of my clients are Penn State students. Not surprisingly, it is usually their parents who hire me. I strive to keep an open line of communication with the parents of clients, and in a lot of cases, I actually spend as much, if not more, time talking to the parents than I do the client. This is because I actively encourage parents to take an interest in their child's criminal case.

Most of my clients are Penn State students

When I first meet with a client, I ask the client whether I will be allowed to discuss the case with anyone else. Usually, Penn State students will allow me to speak with his or her parents without hesitation. The client then signs a release form, which lists the parents. The client may also include a friend of the family, who is an attorney, as many of my clients are referred to me by other lawyers from throughout the United States, and especially other parts of Pennsylvania.

Quite a few of my clients' parents are Penn State alumni, as am I. One thing that alumni parents need to be aware of is that the climate has changed since you were a student in Happy Valley. Gone are the days of kegs in the dorms, the Phi Psi 500, the Skeller Pony Races, the Regatta and Gentle Thursday. Penn State now takes a zero tolerance approach to drugs and alcohol and bad behavior in general. The RA is no longer going to look the other way or give a mere warning when kids smoke marijuana or bring a 12 pack into the dorms. The RA is going to call the police, and criminal charges will invariably follow.

In addition to alumni parents, I deal with a lot of parents from major metropolitan areas, who are unfamiliar with rural Central Pennsylvania. A lot of times, these parents are astonished that the police would have the resources to file criminal charges over something trivial. Some parents even think that if I just rationalize with the police and explain that their son or daughter is a good kid, that maybe the police will not file charges. What you have to understand is that law enforcement priorities differ radically from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Penn State has its own municipal police force. For about 40 nights a year, the Penn State Police Department is understaffed. Their busy times include home football weekends, concerts at the BJC, Arts Fest, graduation, etc. The rest of the year, they have more police than they need. Thus, if students are smoking marijuana in a dorm room on a Tuesday night, the Penn State Police can afford to have two or three police officers tied up with such a trivial matter for three or four hours. In a place like Philadelphia, with "real crime," the police could never waste their time on kids smoking weed in the dorms.

When charged with a crime in State College or on campus, your son or daughter must also contend with potential sanctions from Penn State, which can include suspension or expulsion. Therefore, it is crucial to have an attorney, who is familiar with Penn State Student Affairs, handling your child's case. Often times, a sanction can be lessened, if the student is properly coached by an attorney, and if we can present sufficient mitigating factors. There are even certain situations where a student is charged with a crime, but Penn State Student Affairs does not even get involved in the case. I am familiar enough with Student Affairs to know when this good news, at an otherwise bad time, applies to your child's case.

In most cases, we are able to resolve a student's case at the disciplinary conference. If the assistant director or director of Student Affairs recommends probation, we are usually agreeable to such a sanction. In some cases, however, a hearing before the University Conduct Board is necessary. For example, if the alleged misconduct is of a very serious nature, the only available sanctions are suspension or expulsion. If the student denies the misconduct, then he can have his fate decided by a University Conduct Board, composed of students, faculty and staff. Although Penn State does not allow an attorney to represent a student at such a hearing, the attorney is normally allowed to be present, and the attorney's coaching and preparation of the student for the hearing is crucial to success.

Free Initial Consultation - Including after 5 p.m.

Most lawyers do not want to be bothered after hours, which is understandable considering how hectic our work days can be. But the problem with this approach is that people, who can afford to hire an attorney, usually have a job or own a business. Also, it is very stressful when your child is away at school and facing criminal charges. You may not want to wait until Monday morning to get an answer to your questions. I understand the need for peace of mind, and provide my cell phone number to all my clients and their parents. If I'm awake, I will answer the phone. You can also contact me by email 24 hours a day/7 days a week, and expect a prompt, detailed response to your questions.  Please call us today at 814-308-0870 for a free initial consultation.