Law Offices of Thomas C. Mooney - Criminal Defense
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Is your college student in trouble?

When your son or daughter went off to college at the University of Maryland or other institution, he or she likely received a student handbook (either physically or electronically) that contained a wealth of information. In fact, the college may have required incoming students to attend an assembly where a speaker highlighted essential topics in the document.

The handbook described every aspect of college life, from how to register for courses to where to find help for personal problems. Your child may have read about the names and requirements for campus clubs, recreational offerings and honor societies. Perhaps he or she skipped over the section dealing with student behavior and potential penalties.

Unacceptable behaviors

The student code of conduct at most institutions of higher learning does not limit its scope to the boundaries of the campus. On the contrary, as long as your child is a registered student, the college has the authority to discipline him or her for any illegal behavior, on or off campus. For example, the University of Maryland reserves the right to sanction students if they break the law, even if it occurs off-campus. Some examples of behavior that may incur disciplinary action include:

  • Causing harm to someone else by reckless or intentional actions
  • Possessing an unauthorized weapon
  • Assault
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Arson
  • Possessing or distributing illegal drugs
  • Creating or carrying a false ID
  • Using or possessing alcohol under age 21 or providing alcohol to someone underage

Local police typically work closely with college administrators to ensure a safe environment for your child. If police arrest your child off campus, they will certainly notify the college administration, and your child is likely to face a disciplinary hearing in addition to any legal matters. In some cases, a conviction is necessary for the college to take disciplinary action, but other offenses, such as assault or arson, may result in disciplinary action even if authorities never arrested or charged your child for the offense.


Certain extreme situations may merit immediate sanctions from the college, but usually, disciplinary action depends on the severity of the offense and the determination of a conduct panel. If a disciplinary panel finds your child guilty of a punishable offense, your child may receive any of the following consequences:

  • Loss of campus housing or restricted driving privileges
  • Restitution to the injured party
  • Reprimand and warning
  • Restricted participation in extracurricular campus activities
  • Suspension for a specified time
  • Permanent expulsion

If expelled, the school may ban your child from campus property. The violation and its consequences will likely remain on your child's permanent transcript, following him or her through the completion of your child's academic career.

Throughout the process of dealing with a legal or code of conduct violation, your child has the right to the presence and counsel of a representative. Such an advocate can guide your child in his or her response to the allegations and accusations and make every effort to minimize the consequences or even get the charges dismissed.

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