Top 8 Criminal Defense Charges Students Face in Texas
There were 1.44 million college students in Texas in fall of 2014, a figure expected to rise to 1.64 million by 2025. For most college students, higher education is a chance to extend their independence, build a solid career and start their adult life. Many students who are away from home for the first time, however, need to adjust to life as an adult.
In some cases, college and high school students striving for independence make mistakes, which can lead to charges. In other cases, students are wrongfully accused of breaking the law when they did not do anything wrong. If you are a college student accused of wrongdoing or if you are a parent with a child charged of a criminal offense, it’s important to contact a criminal defense lawyer in Texas as soon as possible. An attorney can take immediate steps to protect you or your child.
Common Criminal Charges Against Students
Some of the most common student crimes and charges in Texas include:
1) Alcohol Possession
In Texas, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to possess alcohol. It is also illegal to supply anyone under the age of 21 with alcohol. Breaking this law is a misdemeanor, and students charged with alcohol possession or serving a minor may face fines, jail time and publicity in the media. The school or college involved may also suspend or expel a student found guilty of alcohol-related offenses. They may also suspend financial aid, potentially affecting a student’s education. In addition, students may have their licenses suspended, need to attend alcohol education classes and complete community service if they are judged guilty of alcohol-related offenses.
Unfortunately, it is possible to run afoul of these laws unintentionally. At many college and high school parties where alcohol is served, not all students are checked by age and ID when they attend. It is possible to serve alcohol to a minor and not be aware of it. Similarly, an underage guest may not realize a drink has alcohol in it, and may still be accused of breaking the law.
Since the consequences of a charge for alcohol offenses are considerable and may affect a student’s education and future career, it is important to act quickly if any charges are filed. Contact a criminal defense attorney in Texas as soon as possible to start mounting an offense. An attorney can investigate whether guests or hosts failed to take steps to protect those at a party from confusion over what the hosts served, and can take other steps to protect you have charges brought against you.
2) Disorderly Conduct
The line between regular parties and disorderly conduct can be a fine one. Students at many schools take part in freshman week activities, public school celebrations and other festivities, which can become loud. Unfortunately, sometimes fights break out or upperclassman pull pranks. In some cases, offensive language or gestures come out in the heat of the moment. If roughhousing crosses the line into disorderly conduct, students can face disorderly conduct charges, which are a misdemeanor charge in Texas.
Being charged with disorderly conduct can get students evicted from student housing, and can cause suspension or expulsion. In cases where weapons are involved or someone is injured, the consequences can be even more far-reaching. If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, it is important to contact a local defense attorney with experience defending students. An attorney can defend you if the conduct was a one-time mistake or can seek to have charges dropped or reduced, in some cases.
3) Drug Possession
Marijuana is one of the most common drugs involved when students are charged with possession or dealing. Unfortunately, while many students see the drug as harmless, it is illegal in the state of Texas and simple possession or use can result in a Class C Misdemeanor. For students accused of possessing more than 4 ounces, felony charges are typical, and can result in fines, probation or prison. The outcome of growing or selling marijuana can be even more severe and the punishment of selling any controlled substance — whether meth, cocaine, heroin or others — can lead to a permanent record and significant penalties.
Drug charges can make it harder to secure a job, and will usually result in expulsion from school. If you have been charged with any drug offense, it’s important to contact a Texas defense attorney right away. An attorney can seek to have the charges dropped or reduced and may be able to find evidence that drugs found were not yours. If there is a disciplinary hearing at your school, your attorney may also be able to prepare you for that experience so you get support and a chance of saving your education.
4) Assault and Sexual Assault
College can be fun, but there are also stressful moments. Exams, close quarters and many personality types in one place can lead to disagreements. Assault can easily occur when tempers flare. You may be accused of assault if you make any physical contact with another person. The charges may be more severe if you utter threats. Even if no one is injured, you may still be accused of assault.
If you are charged with assault, you face losing financial aid and your place in school. Assault can result in a Class C Misdemeanor even if a fight is relatively minor and no one is seriously hurt. If someone is seriously hurt or weapons are involved, a student may face charges of a first-degree felony.
Unfortunately, sexual assault is another common charge against students. In cases where alcohol was involved, a student may not remember what happened, and may have a hard time defending themselves. In other cases, two parties may have very different explanations for what has happened.
If you have been accused of sexual assault or rape and are found guilty, you may be placed on a sex offender registry, which would allow future employers and landlords to look up your name. Your ability to secure a job and even find a place to live might be affected for the rest of your life, since you would remain on the registry for life. If the judge finds you guilty of a felony such as rape or sexual assault, you may be expelled from school with no chance of admission. Being accepted to another school may be difficult, and in some cases, you may even face civil charges.
In most cases of sexual assault and rape, the name and picture of the accused are published in the media, which can affect your ability to live on campus and can permanently impact your reputation. If you have been charged or accused of sexual assault, contact a defense attorney. An attorney can examine the physical evidence in the case and can seek witnesses or other evidence to clear your name or to have the charges reduced.
5) Resisting Arrest
Many students accused of a crime or arrested have never been in trouble before. They are generally scared and upset, and in some cases are indignant about the arrest, especially if there is a wrongful accusation. The emotions inherent in these situations can cause strong reactions during an arrest and this can lead to accusations of resisting arrest.
Resisting arrest in Texas is a Class A misdemeanor and can result in one year in jail as well as a $4,000 fine. If any weapons are used, it becomes a felony and the consequences become far more severe. If you have been charged with resisting arrest, this may be added to additional charges against you. For example, a dual charge of resisting arrest and disorderly conduct increases the potential penalties.
If you are a student and have been charged with resisting arrest, contact a defense attorney at once. If you have been charged with more than one offense, your attorney may be able to seek to have your resisting arrest charges dropped or reduced. An attorney can also work to gather evidence to defend you in court.
6) Using Fake ID
For many students, using a fake driver’s license to get into a club or bar is a rite of passage and most don’t consider it a serious problem. Often, students use fake ID simply because they don’t want left out when their friends are going somewhere fun.
Although it can seem that “everyone” uses fake IDs, in Texas, someone who is under 21 who has a fake ID to seem 21 or older can be found guilty of a Class C misdemeanor, and may face fines of up to $500. If your fake ID has more than a fake date of birth and has fake ID information, such as a fake name or other identifying information, you could face a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and up to $2000 in fines. If your ID is stolen from someone else, you could also be charged with a Class A misdemeanor offense. You could face even more serious charges if you make and sell fake IDs.
Since officials often find links between fake IDs and identity theft or even terrorism, law enforcement has launched many initiatives to stop the use of these documents. It may be more likely you’ll be caught trying to use a fake ID today. In addition, using fake IDs can open you up to other consequences, too. If you buy your ID online, you could be vulnerable to identity theft, because the websites selling IDs may reuse personal information to make more money. In some cases, these sites may be involved in criminal or terrorist activity, so a fake ID from such a company can have police questioning you closely and accusing you of other crimes. If you make fake IDs and steal someone’s identity or a customer uses the ID to commit a crime, you may be implicated in additional crimes as well.
Using fake IDs can have serious consequences, so if you have been charged or arrested and accused of making, selling or use fake identification, contact a Texas defense attorney. An attorney can determine the exact charges brought against you, and can work to have charges dropped or reduced so you don’t face life-long consequences just because you wanted to join your group of friends on Saturday night.
Unfortunately, it is surprisingly easy to drive over the legal alcohol limit. If you are 21 and new to drinking, your body may not be used to alcohol and you may not know your limits yet. You may feel fine after one drink and be over the alcohol limit. Unfortunately, if you are over the age of 21, you will be charged as an adult. Moreover, in Texas, the penalties are strict.
In Texas, a first offense DWI is punishable by at least 3 to 180 days in jail, as well as penalties of up $2000. You will also lose your license for up to one year. If you are under the age of 21 or if it is your second or third offense, the penalties will be even greater. Many campuses also have very strict rules against drinking and driving. In addition to the criminal penalties, you may also face academic probation or other consequences from your school. If you are part of a school sport or have a scholarship, for example, you may lose your place on the team or lose your financial aid as a result of a DWI.
Stealing from another person or shoplifting from a store might not seem like a serious offense, and many students are tempted because they are on such strict budgets. However, with theft comes jail time, fines and other consequences. Theft and shoplifting are also considered crimes of “moral turpitude,” so often you will also face public judgement and other penalties. If you are accused of stealing on campus, for example, the school may set its own punishments. You may lose financial aid or some privileges, and rules may force you to leave the campus.
If you have been accused of stealing, it is important to remember you are innocent until proven guilty. Contact a Texas defense attorney who can develop a plan to defend you robustly so you can continue your education and your life.
Even with the Most Common Student Charges, Serious Penalties can Result
All criminal charges students face in high school and college are serious because they can disrupt their education and financial aid, which can affect schooling, graduation and future career opportunities. If you are a student charged with a criminal offense, your name may be published in the newspaper and local media, which can make it even harder for you to get a job eventually.
The fines and penalties of criminal charges can also be difficult for students, especially for those on small budgets. Jail time can create a break in education and a permanent criminal record, which can affect future prospects. Some serious criminal charges can lead to a loss of driver’s license or can land a student permanently on a sex offender list. These situations can significantly limit future jobs and can even affect where you can live for years or a lifetime.
In most cases, students are tried as adults, especially since most college students are over the age of majority. This can mean time in a state prison as well as serious consequences. Unless you get deferred adjudication probation, you may have a permanent record and you may not qualify for your records to be sealed. Working with an attorney can determine whether you qualify for criminal record expungement and can ensure you have an attorney defending you to avoid conviction for something you did not do.
Most colleges also hold disciplinary hearings for students accused of a crime. These hearings will help determine what steps the school will take against the student. Depending on the outcome, the student may be placed on academic probation, may be expelled or suspended, may have some rights suspended or may be expelled and banned from readmission.
Expulsion or suspension means a student loses out on tuition money, financial aid and time from their school year. In cases where a student is expelled with no chance of readmission, it may even be difficult for the student to get accepted into another quality school. Students put a lot of effort into getting accepted into the best college possible and in securing scholarships and financial aid. Working with a defense attorney if you have been charged can mean there is someone by your side fighting for your education and your academic efforts.
Getting Help After Charges are Filed
A lot can happen in high school and college. Don’t let one mistake or one false accusation affect your entire life. If you are charged with a criminal offense or think charges are likely, contact a defense lawyer for Texas students immediately. An attorney who has experience with student defense cases specifically understands what is at stake and can work hard to protect your good name, your scholarships, your education and your future. The sooner you contact an attorney the sooner he or she can start protecting you and building a strong case for your defense.
If you are a student accused of a crime or if you are a parent whose child has been charged and you are looking for a defense attorney for Texas students, contact Morales & Sparks. Our team has worked closely with students in Texas and we can review your case to create a customized defense to protect your name and future.