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Disciplinary proceedings can result from non-criminal offenses, such as hazing, to misdemeanor offenses such as DUI, underage possession of alcohol, or possession of marijuana or other drugs. More serious allegations of sexual misconduct, including sexual battery (often called sexual assault), are surprisingly common on the college campus.
The attorney can help the student resolve the case before a hearing. In some cases, at the disciplinary hearing, the attorney can help the student present exculpatory evidence and preserve objections to evidence that should not be considered. If objections are properly preserved, and the student’s rights to due process are protected, the student has the best chance of obtaining the most desirable outcome.
After the disciplinary hearing, an attorney for the college student at FSU or FAMU can appeal a final decision imposing disciplinary sanctions for the violation of the Student Code of Conduct by filing a petition for writ of certiorari. The writ usually involves a showing that the student’s due process rights were violated at the formal disciplinary hearing for several reasons, including the fact that evidence introduced at the hearing was hearsay.
At the Pumphrey Law, we work hard to protect college students from a permanent disciplinary record. Disciplinary proceedings can result in suspension or expulsion from their current school. The record can prevent them from attending another college or graduate-level program, and even follow them into a career in the health care profession, the legal profession, local or state government, the military, or law enforcement.
Are parents notified of college / university misconduct?
When any criminal accusation is made, the student must be careful to update his contact information and respond to any correspondence from the college or university.
Depending on the rules of the college or university, parents may or may not be notified of the misconduct or the disciplinary hearing. The only time parents are guaranteed to be notified is when the student is under 18, then the University is required to notify the parents. Students often receive the notice to their e-mail account and through certified mail and at FSU, parents can receive a “Parental Notification Letter” once the results of the proceedings are made. At FAMU, parents are notified when the offense involves alcohol and/or drugs.
What is the role of an attorney during the disciplinary hearing?
Although area colleges used to try to limit the role that attorneys could play during the student hearing, thanks to recent changes by the legislation, students are now guaranteed Due Process rights during their disciplinary hearings. Due Process rights are used to ensure people go through a fair process when being charged with an alleged violation, be that of a state law or a school’s code.
The Institution/University must include within the timely written notice:
Citation to the specific provision of the code of conduct at issue.
Process used in determining whether a violation occurred.
Any associated rights of the student or student organization.
Date, time, and location of the disciplinary proceeding.
Notice must be delivered at least 7 business days before the disciplinary proceeding to be considered timely.
This notice may be delivered to the student’s institutional email address or the student organization’s email address; and
For students under 18, the parent’s email address
The student or student organization must receive at least 5 business days before the disciplinary proceeding:
A list of all known witnesses who have provided, or will provide, information against them.
All known information relating to the allegation, including both inculpatory and exculpatory information.
The right to a presumption that no violation occurred
The institution carries the burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that a violation took place.
Preponderance of the evidence is normally met when the party carrying the burden convinces the fact finder that there is a greater than 50% chance that their claim is true.
The right to an impartial hearing officer
The right against self-incrimination and to remain silent
The right to present relevant information and question witnesses
The right to an advisor or advocate, who may not serve in any other role
The right to have an advisor, advocate, or legal representative (like an attorney) at the student’s or student organization’s own expense throughout formal and informal proceedings.
The right to appeal the final decision of the hearing officer, or any committee or panel.
The right to an accurate and complete record of every proceeding.
And the right to be notified through the code of conduct of the institution’s time limit for charging them with violations, and the circumstances under which the time limit may be extended or waived.
Thanks to subsection (g) of the statute, students now have the legal right to have an attorney present with them through any formal or informal proceedings. This right allows the attorney to do some of the following things:
Review the record with the college student.
Prepare witnesses and exhibits for the hearing.
Accompany the college student to the disciplinary hearing.
Prepare questions and redirect the adverse witnesses testify against the college student.
Ensure that the hearing officer follows all due process requirements; and
Sit beside and assist the college student during the entire process.
In most cases, the goal of the hearing is for the hearing officer to return a finding of “not responsible” for any misconduct. If an adverse ruling results from the disciplinary hearing, the attorney can help the college student prepare an appeal to the Dean or other college or university officials.
Most importantly, if a criminal prosecution will result from the misconduct, the attorney can protect the college student against making any statements that might incriminate them. Even students who are completely innocent of the criminal accusation or accusation of misconduct must also be aware that statements made during the proceeding could later be used against them to prove one or more elements of the offense.
In most cases, the student should work with the attorney to present his side of the story during the disciplinary hearing. Obtaining representation for the disciplinary hearing is often just as important as obtaining representation for the criminal proceeding.
Is the college student required to present testimony during the disciplinary hearing?
During the disciplinary hearing, the college or university student should not be forced to present testimony that would tend to incriminate the student in any criminal proceeding. A fine line exists between presenting a defense and the right against self-incrimination, however, the college or university is not required to postpone the proceedings pending the outcome of any criminal proceeding.
A disciplinary penalty or sanction imposed under the educational institution’s code of conduct is in addition to any penalty imposed by the courts for the criminal system. Double jeopardy does not protect the students against sanctions by the university and additional sanctions in the criminal courts. This is because Double Jeopardy only applies to criminal matters and not civil, like the disciplinary hearings.
An attorney acting as the student’s advisor can help the student through the process allowing the student to present a highly effective defense while still being aware of the danger of self-incrimination and the impact on the criminal proceeding. It’s important to note, that the attorney may not testify for the student during the conduct process. Just like at a regular court hearing, if the student is testifying, they must be the one doing it. What the attorney can do, as previously explained, is to help prepare the student on what to expect and how to properly testify.
How does Florida State University approach disciplinary hearings?
Each college or university has a process after an accusation of misconduct has been made against a student. At Florida State University (FSU) the process begins with a charge letter. The charge letter notifies the student of the alleged violation of the Student Code of Conduct. Within five (5) days of receiving the charge letter, the student must call FSU’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities to set up an appointment for an information session.
Then an informal session is scheduled. The informal session is a meeting with a representative from FSU’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. During the meeting, the official will explain the student’s rights, discuss the hearing option, and answer any questions.
These proceedings can occur prior to, alongside with, or following criminal or civil proceedings. While the decisions of either criminal or civil proceedings do not bind the student hearings, they are still considered during the process.
FSU employs two methods for resolving Student Conduct Proceedings, hearings and informal resolutions. The school seems to prefer informal resolutions when appropriate, as the process is simpler than those of a hearing. In an informal resolution, FSU can either issue a warning if the violation is small, have the complainant and the accused student go through an alternative resolution process, or the school can issue a no-contest resolution.
Probation/Warnings are notifications of impending ineligibility if the student does not meet the minimum standards of satisfactory progress and academic good standing.
Alternative Resolution is deemed appropriate when both the accused student and the complainant agree to pursue a mutually agreed-upon resolution. FSU adopts this resolution in lieu of adjudicating a student conduct case. Failure to adhere to the agreed-upon resolution by either individual can result in further student conduct action by FSU.
No-Contest Resolution is used when the accused student accepts responsibility and does not seek to contest the allegation. It results in a student conduct record for the accused student and is noted as a finding of responsibility.
FSU’s code provides for two types of hearings, informal and formal. Formal hearings require the hearing body to call appropriate witnesses regarding the alleged violation and are held no sooner than five class days after the notice is given. While Informal hearings are typically scheduled at the convenience of the accused student and the hearing body, the University does not automatically call witnesses (though per the new law, the accused student can still call their own witnesses) but can call witnesses and gather any required information for their determination.
FSU allows the accused student to choose both the hearing type and the hearing body that will decide their case, though the department of student conduct normally pre-selects one of these options.
The student is allowed to have an adviser through the entire process who can be an attorney, a friend, a family member, or anyone else the student chooses. The student is allowed to call witnesses like in a civil case, though no character witnesses are allowed. A character witness testifies on behalf of another to their positive or negative traits and reputation in the community. To learn more about the different type of witnesses, you can read our blog here.
After the hearing, a decision is rendered where the student can be found either “responsible” or “not responsible” for each of the alleged violations. If the student is found responsible for misconduct, the hearing body creates a set of educational outcomes for each violation the Respondent is found responsible. This normally accompanies a deadline of completion. If the Respondent does not meet the deadline, a student conduct hold is placed on their FSU’s record.
The student can appeal the result of the formal or informal disciplinary hearing as long as the reasons for the appeal are relevant to the case. At this point of the process, the burden of proof shifts to whoever is requesting the appeal, with the person requesting the appeal now call the appellant. The appellant must show that the appeal has merit, but the Student Conduct Authority ultimately decides if the appeal has merits and may choose to deny the request after a full review of the issues.
To learn more about FSU’s Disciplinary Hearings visit our blog here.
What are the potential punishments from a disciplinary hearing?
The disciplinary proceeding can even be based on law violations that occur off-campus and do not involve any college or university function or activity. Meaning that the student must uphold the student conduct even when dealing with non-school-related functions or events. School look at the character that their students present to the outside world during the entire time they are enrolled and not just while they are physically present at school or during school events.
In situations where the student has been found guilty in a criminal or civil court, schools conduct what is sometimes called an Outcome-Only Hearing. This type of hearing is reserved for students who are found guilty or at fault in a criminal or civil court that employs a standard of fault that is either the same or higher than that of the school.
Colleges and Universities use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard when reviewing and making their decisions. This standard focuses on whether the evidence presented shows that it is more likely than not that the alleged conduct occurred. Civil cases use the same standard, but criminal cases use the higher standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Depending on the severity of the violation the student is charged with and the result of the disciplinary hearing, the student can receive one of the following punishments or penalties from their school:
Expulsion – Permanent separation from the University without the possibility of readmission. This may include restricted access to campus and/or other specified activities
Suspension – Meaning separation from the University, including the student’s access to the campus or other activities are restricted for a specified time. Usually for nor more than two years.
Restitution – In cases involving University property.
Disciplinary probation – During this probation, any further violation of the Student Conduct Code will place your status with the University in jeopardy. If you are found “responsible” for another violation of the Code during the period of Disciplinary
Reprimand (written or verbal)
Parental Notification Letter
Completion of Service Hours under the supervision of a University department or outside agency.
Educational Activities – attendance at educational programs, interviews with appropriate officials, planning and implementing educational programs, or other educational activities
Counseling Assessment – referral for assessment at a counseling center for alcohol/drug dependence, general mental health, or other counseling issues
Change in University Housing assignment or Exclusion (either temporary or permanent) from University Housing
Withholding of diplomas, transcripts, or other records
Transcript Notations – a written notation indicating that disciplinary action was taken
Please note, that student should read all information provided by the college or university about the disciplinary hearing. No college student should solely rely on any of the general information contained on this website because the rules vary significantly from one educational institution to another.
Hearing officers can issue warnings for students to exercise better judgment without formally finding them “responsible” for misconduct. Depending on the rules of the university or college, a warning is placed in the student’s file but is not reflected on the student’s transcript. Warnings do not have to be reported to most outside agencies. However, the warning can be considered during any future disciplinary proceedings.
In certain cases, a college reprimand is given for minor misconduct and is not generally considered part of the student’s permanent disciplinary record. The reprimand may also refer the student to an educational program or counseling program. If the student fails to comply with the referral, then more serious penalties could be imposed, and the findings could end up part of the student’s permanent disciplinary record.
In some cases, the hearing officers can place the student on probation for minor instances of misconduct, or misconduct that does not warrant a suspension. Probation can include certain restrictions but is not generally made part of the student’s permanent disciplinary record.
Generally, restrictions can include but are not limited to the following:
Making restitution for any money damages
Prohibition for driving a motor vehicle on campus,
Preventing the student from participating in certain athletic programs, functions, or activities at the college or university; or
Making the student ineligibility to serve as an officer in certain student organizations.
The college or university may seek to suspend a student for misconduct that is deemed serious enough to warrant removal from the educational institution for a specific If a suspension is imposed, the university or college will then typically notify the parents.
The student may be immediately ordered to leave the university student housing and stop attending classes.
The student will not be allowed back on the campus until all requirements are completed and the student obtains permission to re-enroll from the dean.
During the period of suspension, the student is not generally allowed to complete any classes that can be transferred to the university or college towards completion of their degree.
The fact that the suspension is imposed is permanently recorded in the student’s file and on the student’s transcript during the period of suspension.
When a student applies to other colleges or universities, or graduate school, law school, employment, or in connection with other applications, the student must disclose that fact. The student’s request to the Dean’s Office for verification of their records will also report the suspension.
Do you have to report the results of disciplinary hearings?
Although the college or university may tell you that you do not have to report the results of the disciplinary hearing, law school, in particular, ask extremely broad questions which would require disclosure of even information not contained in the student’s permanent disciplinary record. Consider a typical question on a law school application:
Have you ever been the subject of disciplinary proceedings, or been warned, placed on probation, or suspended for academic, nonacademic, or any other reasons by any of the colleges, universities, graduate schools, or professional schools you have attended, or are any such proceedings pending?
Have you ever been charged with or convicted of a crime, including sealed or expunged offenses, other than a minor traffic violation, or are charges pending?
The failure to disclose the fact that a disciplinary proceeding occurred could be considered misconduct which could result in expulsion from law school, refusal of an application to take the bar exam, or even subsequent disbarment.
Other graduate school programs, such as medical and business graduate programs, may also ask applicants if the student has ever been found responsible or sanctioned for a student disciplinary issue.
Florida State University’s Student Conduct Code
Read the Florida State Conduct Code as it appears in the State of Florida Administrative Code 6C2-3.004 which outlines the rights, policies, offenses, and procedures that the FSU Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities must uphold. Includes information on the following:
Florida State University Hazing Policy
The Student Conduct Code defines the term “hazing” to include any action or activity that inflicts eat physical or mental harm or discomfort that interferes with the student’s academic performance, forces the consumption of food, alcohol, drugs, or physical activity.
Resources for Florida A&M University Students Regarding Disciplinary Hearings
FAMU Student Handbook – Disciplinary Proceedings (The FANG)
Read more about disciplinary proceedings after an allegation is made against a student.
Florida A&M University Code of Student Conduct
Allegations of criminal offenses or misconduct committed by students are referred to FAMU’s Office of Judicial Affairs and Resource Services which is responsible for all judicial matters. The Judicial Affairs office is located at Suite 101 in the Student Union.
Florida A&M University
Department of Judicial Affairs
1628 S Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
101 Student Union
Tallahassee, Florida 32307
Attorney in Tallahassee for Disciplinary Hearings against College Students
When a criminal accusation is made against a graduate or college student, obtaining experienced representation may provide important protections. At the Pumphrey Law, our attorneys work hard to protect college students from a permanent disciplinary record which can result in their suspension or expulsion from area colleges or universities including Florida State University (FSU) and Florida A&M University (FAMU).
Attorney Don Pumphrey, Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney. Don has achieved over 100 not guilty verdicts at trial and over 2,000 dismissals.