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Boston Criminal Defense Law Blog

Students face serious penalties for drug offenses

College students charged with drug crimes can suffer consequences that can follow them their entire academic and professional lives. Massachusetts imposes criminal penalties for the use or possession of drugs or controlled substances, depending on the type of drug. Possession of drugs without proper authorization is illegal. Possession of a comparatively large quantity of drugs may be prosecuted as a distribution offense. Penalties for possession, manufacturing and distribution of drugs carry more sanctions after the first conviction. Many laws require mandatory sentences. Possessing and selling drug paraphernalia is also illegal.

Heroin offenses carry especially tough penalties. It is illegal to be in a place where heroin is kept and even in the company of a person possessing heroin, such as at a party or dorm room. Sharing drugs with individuals under 21 at a party, dormitory or anywhere else within 1,000 feet of a college has harsh penalties under federal law. These include a mandatory one-year prison sentence, while a third conviction can lead to life imprisonment.

Campus disciplinary hearings and student records

Part of the process of growing up often includes making mistakes. Sometimes, those mistakes come with serious consequences.

If you or a loved one face campus disciplinary charges, it is important to understand the possible impact moving forward. Consider a few key facts.

College hearings lack courtroom protections

Colleges cannot expel or discipline students without providing them a forum to hear the charges and defend themselves. Civil libertarians, however, are claiming that college campus disciplinary hearings and other processes, such as federal administrative hearings, lack due process and do not protect a student's constitutional rights, according to critics.

Legal issues that could impact those accused of campus crimes

Many college students do not realize that beyond state or federal law, there is an entirely different governing body that could affect their future. If students are accused of college campus crimes, they could face accusations that could impact the rest of their lives. There are a few legal issues that could impact those accused of college campus crimes. Specifically, there are ways in which colleges are to handle crime allegations.

For those colleges that accept federal student aid, and many in the Boston area do, there are ways that these colleges are to handle crime allegations. The Clery Act ensures schools have safety policies and report crimes that occur on campus. Under this act, any crime that occurs on school grounds and within school-owned property is considered "on campus." There are also other properties that are considered to be on campus, such as remote classrooms, buildings owned by campus groups and fraternity and sorority houses.

Are Breathalyzers always accurate?

Receiving a conviction for operating under the influence in Massachusetts can have serious consequences, and it can potentially leave you with large fines and an inability to get around, among other repercussions. When you receive an OUI conviction as a college student, however, you may face additional consequences. If, for example, your OUI conviction is a felony and you are currently receiving financial aid, your conviction may impact your ability to receive financial aid for a given period.

Because the stakes associated with an OUI conviction are so considerable for Massachusetts college students, it is critical that the breath test authorities administered to you at the time of your arrest provided accurate results. Breathalyzers are not immune to error, however, and there are several factors that can lead to false readings. These factors include:

Options after a campus drug charge

College students facing drug charges have a lot to lose. Fortunately, young offenders have options for dealing with accusations. For example, students facing drug charges may be able to settle matters in drug court. 

The drug court model in Massachusetts has become one of the leading examples of drug rehabilitative measures across the country. With the support of the federal government's opioid commission, the reach of the program is increasing, making it a viable option for more nonviolent drug offenders. There are a few important aspects of the court process to be aware of.

College campus crime accusations are serious allegations

When your child goes off to school, a lot of parents have a hard time with the idea of letting go. Of course, it might be more emotional than practical, but in reality, this is usually a person's first time living on their own. A person left to their own decisions can make the right ones, or maybe they make some questionable decisions. Sometimes those decisions can land a person in hot water with the law or with their college campus.

What many people don't realize is that all college campuses have a sort of governing body. There are rules and regulations that are expected to be adhered to and respected. Failure to do this could cause a young person to face ramifications with the actual law or with their own college campus law. Accusations or determination from either governing body could negatively impact the rest of a young person's life.

Dorm rights in Massachusetts

College students have constitutional rights concerning searches in their dormitory rooms and illegally seized evidence may be excluded from criminal prosecutions. But, these rights are not absolute, and exceptions can have an impact on college students charged with drug crimes.

Reasonable residence hall contracts may allow a warrantless search. Usually, residence staff members may inspect rooms for safety or health reasons. In one case, however a student was prosecuted at a Massachusetts college for illegal possession or cultivation of marijuana after university staff searched a dorm room.

Laws against furnishing alcohol to minors

The legal drinking age in Massachusetts and around the United States is 21. That means if you supply alcohol to individuals under the age of 21, you could face misdemeanor charges

Massachusetts has the Social Host Law, which states knowingly providing alcohol to people under the age of 21 who are not your children is a punishable offense. There is an exception to this law stating parents and legal guardians can provide alcohol to a minor under their own roofs. That means parents could allow their underage children to have a sip of champagne or wine and would not face criminal charges. However, providing alcohol to anyone else will result in serious consequences. 

College hearings lack procedural safeguards

College students do not lose their constitutional and legal rights when they enter their freshman year and step forth on campus. However, a students' rights group gave a failing grade to colleges for the protections it affords students in college campus disciplinary hearings in a report it issued last year.

Due process and other rights, according to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, have not kept pace with the increased enforcement duties undertaken by colleges in areas such as sexual assault, illegal drugs and underage drinking. It reviewed 53 universities across the country along with several Massachusetts colleges.

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