Disciplinary Proceedings for College Students
When a college student or graduate student is accused of a crime, the student must worry about more than just the criminal prosecution. Even when the criminal charges are ultimately dropped or dismissed, students at Florida State University (FSU) and Florida A&M University (FAMU) may be subjected to disciplinary proceedings for the alleged misconduct.
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.
For decisions made at Florida Statute University (FSU) or Florida A&M University (FAMU), the final decision is reviewable by certiorari in the appropriate circuit court in Leon County, FL.
College Student Disciplinary Hearings Lawyer in Tallahassee
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.
Call (850) 681-7777 to speak with an attorney about protecting the student's disciplinary record. We strive to help the student obtain a positive result to protect their future education and career opportunities.
- Are parents notified of college / university misconduct?
- What is the role of an attorney during the disciplinary hearing?
- Is the student required to present testimony?
- How does Florida State University approach disciplinary hearings?
- What are potential punishments from disciplinary hearings?
- What does each punishment entail?
- Do you have to report the results of disciplinary hearings?
- Resources for Florida State University students
- Resources for Florida A&M University students
Depending on the rules of the college or university, parents may or may not be notified of the misconduct or the disciplinary hearing. Students often receive the notice to their e-mail account and certified mail. 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.
Although area colleges seek to limit the role an attorney can play during the hearing, the attorney is permitted to:
- review the record with the college student;
- help the college student prepare witnesses and exhibits for the hearing;
- accompany the college student to the disciplinary hearing;
- prepare questions for the adverse witnesses who will testify against the college student;
- make sure 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 make any statements that might incriminate the student. 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.
During the disciplinary hearing, the college or university student should not be forced to present testimony which 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, because 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.
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.
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 hearing option, and answer any questions.
A formal hearing, informal hearing or organizational hearing is scheduled. The student is allowed to have an advisor who can be an attorney. The student is allowed to call witnesses. After the hearing, a decision is rendered. If the student is found responsible for misconduct, certain sanctions can be imposed. The student can appeal the result of the formal or informal 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. Depending on the severity of the violation and the result of the disciplinary hearing, the student can receive one of the following punishments or penalties:
- Disciplinary probation;
- Warning; or
The student should read all information provided by the college or university about the disciplinary hearing. No college student should rely on any of the general information contained on this website because the rules vary significantly from one educational institution to another.
- Warning - 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.
- Reprimand - In certain cases, a college reprimand is given for minor misconduct and are 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.
- Probation - 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.
- Generally, restrictions can include but are not limited to the following:
- Suspension - The college or university may seek to suspend a student for misconduct that is deemed serious enough warrant removal from the educational institution for a specific time period. 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 to 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.
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 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.
FSU's Advisor Form for the Disciplinary Process - At least two class days before the disciplinary hearing, the student must notify the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities for Florida State University (FSU) that an attorney will act as the student's advisor. See also FSU's Advisor Request forms for Disciplinary Hearings (PDF).
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:
- formal and informal hearings;
- sexual misconduct;
- weapons charges;
- fire and safety violations;
- underage possession of alcohol;
- illegal drug use including marijuana;
- property damage and criminal mischief;
- shoplifting and theft;
- gambling; or
- any other violation of Federal or State law or local ordinance.
For more information contact:Florida State University
The Dean of Students Department
Student Rights & Responsibilities
University Center A, Suite 4117
Tallahassee, FL 32306
Phone Number: 850-644-5136
Florida State University Police Department - Find out more about criminal investigations for offenses committed on campus, public safety information, and victim's rights during campus investigations.
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, physical activity.
FSU Guidelines for Disciplinary Action, Chapter 6C2R-4.070, Regulations of The Florida State University - Provides information on Florida State University's standards of conduct and the resulting disciplinary action if these standards are not met that apply to all University Support Personnel System (USPS) employees of the FSU with regular status and Administrative and Professional (A&P) employees.
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).
Call (850) 681-7777 for a free, confidential consultation and to speak directly with a criminal defense attorney about protecting the student's disciplinary record. We strive to help the student obtain a favorable result so that future educational and career opportunities are not adversely impacted.
This article was last updated on October 22, 2016.
Attorney Don Pumphrey Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney.