College Arrest 101 Blog | Speech, Social Media and Discipline

The intersection of free speech, hate speech, social media and college discipline are playing out in campuses across the country and in some courts. College students use social media constantly and almost exclusively to voice their opinions and ideas. Many Universities have faced challenges when these opinions border on hate speech or racism and school officials are turning to the University Disciplinary system. Many University codes bar and punish many types of normally protected speech. Sounds unAmerican? Against the Constitution? What about the First Amendment? This is the challenge.

For example, an App called Yik Yak has spurned a number of college disciplinary cases resulting in suspensions at Colorado College when students posted racist opinions –  you can read about here. If you are curious about whether your College or University has policies that restrict free speech check out FIRE’s (Foundation for Individual Rights in Eduction) website which rates the disciplinary codes of about 400 public and private Universities.

College Arrest 101 Blog | Another UM Football Player Arrested and Out of School

Another promising University of Miami Hurricane football player was arrested last month – this time for DUI.  The response by the UM athletic department again was immediate and a day later the freshman student was out of school. It is unclear whether this student left voluntarily or he was expelled. You can see the local coverage of the story here.

 

College Arrest 101 Blog | Back to Campus

The 2014-2015 college academic year has just started for most colleges and universities. Here in Miami, students have been back to campus for about a week now and classes have just begun. This is a very busy time for Freshman and returning students alike. New and old friends are meeting up and enjoying themselves all around campus and town.
As I warn every fall, students should be extra careful in these first few weeks of the semester when the police are out in full force patrolling for typical college student illegal activity like drugs use and underage drinking. Many campus police and local police forces will be doing undercover and sting operations looking for drugs and alcohol in and around campus.
Drug and alcohol violations can be serious and have major consequences for college students. Any such arrest for violation should be reviewed by an attorney. Good luck to all the college students (and parents) out there this semester!

College Arrest 101 Blog | Colleges Spend Summer Break Rewriting Disciplinary Rules

What do college administrators spend their summer doing? They open up their Student Handbooks and Disciplinary Codes and revise their policies based upon the changes and events that have occurred in the preceding school year.

This summer’s hot topic is Sexual Assault and Consent.  With rape statistics on college campuses on the rise, colleges are under pressure to review their policies and are completely revamping their definitions of consent – even including examples and hypotheticals. You can read about the definition of consent coming to a campus near you here or listen to the NPR story here:

New college students and even returning college students should always review the Student Handbook in the beginning of the school year because the times they are a changing’.

College Arrest Blog 101 | Mugshot Website Legislation Proposed in Florida – Take 2

The Florida Legislature is taking up the pervasive problem with these Mugshot Websites again and it looks like this time it may pass. Read about it here. I have been complaining about these Mugshot websites that obtain arrestees’ booking photos, also known as mugshots, from the jails as soon as someone is arrested and publishing them on their websites, along with their names and charges. Not only is the a great source of embarrassment for those arrested, but also many times charges are dismissed or expunged and these Mugshot websites never correct their data. Worse yet, they will not remove the photo or information unless the arrestee pays them a fee!

This time the Florida legislature is following the lead of a number of other states which have successfully curbed these websites by cutting their income stream. The proposed legislation would require these websites to remove the photos at no charge. Let’s hope this time the Florida legislature gets somewhere on this issue.

College Arrest 101 Blog | College Graduates and Background Searches for Employment

Graduation may finally be here for some college students.  Hopefully, post graduation plans include many employment opportunities.  It is rare these days to obtain a job without going through a criminal background check. These words will immediately invoke fear in many, many college students who may have partied too
hard or made a silly, youthful mistake that resulted in an arrest during the college years.

Almost all of my college student clients want to know what exactly is on their criminal background as result of an arrest and/or criminal case. When I handle a criminal case I am able to specifically advise a client about their criminal background records. But, I recommend any college student who has been arrested check their criminal background just like you would check your credit report.

Anyone can obtain their own criminal background history from the FBI, which has the most comprehensive database of criminal arrests, with this form. It takes about a month and only costs $18. There is also a process to correct an erroneous record on the FBI website.

Congratulations Class of 2014 and now get to work!

College Arrest 101 Blog | What are the Student Discipline and Arrest Statistics for My College?

Records of specific cases of student discipline at any University are strictly confidential and cannot be discussed by the College or published in the newspaper or in 2014 on the Internet. This is because college student disciplinary records (unlike criminal arrest records) are strictly protected educational records under Federal Law, which I discuss in more detail here.

This may be a good thing if you are a College student and you don’t want anyone to find out that you were disciplined by your University. But it really is a double edged sword. Not being able to review, check or compare what type of discipline a student receives for a particular violation could be very dangerous. Why? Because it permits the College or University to hold secret hearings, issue secret punishment for whatever reason or for no justification at all. For example, how would you know if a student received a harsher punishment based upon race or gender? How would you know before you go into a disciplinary hearing what the likely outcome of discipline will be – a small slap on the wrist like community service, or probation or suspension from school? The United States banned secret courts way back in the Declaration of Independence. So, why do we let Colleges dole out secret discipline to their students?

I have been researching over the course of the past year a way to obtain these records or statistics of discipline in light of the Federal privacy laws protecting educational records. I have found a few ways. First, I have been advised by a state university that I could make a public records request for the college’s disciplinary records in a certain field and they would provide them with names redacted. Unfortunately, this is a very costly endeavor because you would have to pay the school’s employee to search the records, redact them and copy them. I could envision this running into the thousand of dollars and time is also a factor. I haven’t yet made such a request – but I will likely in the near future.

I also just recently came across a Department of Education website that provides raw statistics of the number of disciplinary cases (and many other things) generated by University. Its a pretty interesting site that can be searched here. Its worth a look at your College’s statistics.

College Arrest 101 Blog | Yes the Police Can Report Your Arrest to Your College

College students who have been arrested off campus may be under the incorrect impression that they are in the clear – that their school will not find out about the arrest and they can’t be disciplined by the University for it. When in fact any police officer, prosecutor or anyone else can report misconduct to your college disciplinary office. And recall most student codes of conduct also apply to student activity which occurs off campus and even during vacation (read all about it here in my earlier blog post on this very dangerous topic).

I have had students arrested off campus by other police agencies who then report the arrest and forwarded the arrest report to the college in order to get the student disciplined by the University. I have also seen fellow students, such as RA’s (Resident Assistants), find out about an off campus arrest and report it to the college resulting in discipline.

So, my recommendation to any college student who is arrested is to use  your right to remain silent and don’t volunteer information about your college status to the police. More importantly, keep the fact that you were arrested quiet and don’t share it with all your friends, roommates, neighbors and certainly not on social media like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram!

College Arrest 101 Blog | Nationwide Statistics on Alcohol and Drugs on College Campuses

As the 2013-2014 academic college year comes to a close, the statistics for 2012 are in and have been comprehensively analyzed by website rehabs.com in its report, “Drugs on Campus, Exploring the Drug Cultures of Hundreds of College Campuses through their Crime Data.”

 

This website is a very interesting read and does a tremendous job analyzing the statistics of college arrests in many areas, not only alcohol and drugs.

College Arrest 101 Blog | A College Student, A Smartphone and the US Supreme Court . . .

Perhaps one of the most significant search and seizure cases for the digital age is centered around a college student who was initially pulled over for a routine traffic stop.
He was ultimately arrested for driving with a suspended license and the police impounded his smartphone AFTER scrolling through it to find incriminating evidence of videos and photos of gang activity. The phone landed him in prison for 15 years. You can read aboutthe case here.

The US Supreme Court will now decide whether the police illegally searched that smartphone without a warrant. Oral arguments on this issue were held this week and a decision is expected by June.

In a time when a smart phone contains as much information as a home computer or office file cabinets once did, this Fourth Amendment issue about what is a permissible search of a smartphone by the Government will surely be significant.

So, college students should again be aware that what you think may be “private” is not.  Just like a Facebook page that is “private” or a dorm room that is “private”, a telephone may not protected from routine searches by the police. We’ll just have to wait and see but in the meantime, I wouldn’t keep anything like incriminating photos on my cell phone.