Courts have consistently held that teenagers have civil rights, such as First Amendment rights to free expression, at least within limits. Courts are less generous in terms of privacy rights. For example, random locker searches are technically illegal. But if the danger is great enough (e.g. a teenager selling fentanyl to other teenagers), courts usually allow them.
Possession cases aren’t as big of an issue for college students. But criminal conduct is a big problem on most college campuses. Arrest is scary for anyone and especially for college students. Frequently, these young adults are a long way from home. Since they usually only know their “friends” on a first -name basis, these friends usually get going when the going gets tough.
Several large secondary and post-secondary schools are in Cobb County, the third-largest county in the state. So, an experienced Marietta criminal defense lawyer regularly deals with high school possession cases and college conduct cases. Usually, the same defenses and other principles which apply in local adult courts apply in student matters as well. However, student criminal charges have some unique aspects as well. We’ll explore both these things in this post.
High School Possession Cases
For most people, the high school days are the fondly recalled glory days (my goodness, Bruce looks young in this video). A juvenile possession case permanently mars those fond memories. However, if a Marietta criminal defense lawyer successfully defends these charges in court, which usually means the defendant doesn’t end up with a criminal record, the bad memories fade over time and only the good ones remain.
Immediate jail release is the absolute top priority in these cases. Juvenile detention centers are very bad places, especially for children with no criminal record.
The county sheriff has almost absolute authority to set the amount and conditions of bail. Frequently, an attorney advocates for a child at this point, and convinces the sheriff to lower the bail amount and basically release the child to his/her parents.
Pretrial advocacy continues after jail release. A Marietta criminal defense lawyer often makes basically the same pitch to prosecutors. Overworked prosecutors often agree to put the matter on the backburner and, if the child doesn’t get in trouble again, let the statute of limitations expire.
Illegal possession cases are easy to charge and difficult to prove in court, mostly because they have a surprising number of moving parts. In court, prosecutors must:
- Produce the Substance: As mentioned, courts uphold random locker searches in extreme cases. But in less extreme cases, like POM (possession of marijuana), the same dynamics don’t apply. Therefore, unless officers had valid warrants, the contraband is usually inadmissible.
- Prove it Was Illegal: Let’s stay with the marijuana example. Illegal marijuana is physically indistinguishable from legal hemp. Prosecutors must order an expensive THC content test to scientifically prove the difference. Most prosecutors aren’t willing to take that extra step, especially if the defendant is willing to plea bargain.
- Establish Possession: Many people believe possession is synonymous with ownership, and in the everyday world, that’s usually true. But in criminal court, prosecutors must establish proximity, control, and knowledge. Furthermore, they must prove all three beyond any reasonable doubt.
If the defendant is safely in the custody of his/her parents, many prosecutors are willing to offer unsupervised probation and deferred disposition in juvenile possession matters. The defendant basically waits for the clock to run down, and the judge then dismisses the case.
University Conduct Cases
Colleges and universities also have broad power to expel or otherwise discipline students who are convicted of, or even charged with, a criminal act.
Furthermore, a criminal conviction doesn’t technically bar admission or financial aid. However, a criminal conviction usually sends people to the back of the line. By the time they come up for consideration, all the spots are taken, or all the money is gone.
Jail release is even more important in these cases. Officers take college students to grown-up jail, and their parents usually can’t do anything except Venmo money to a bail bondsman.
However, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer can do something. As outlined above a lawyer can talk to the sheriff and later discuss the matter with prosecutors.
University discipline procedures are usually more formal than high school procedures. University discipline procedures also move quickly. The Fourteenth Amendment requires notice and hearing in these cases. The university might send notice on Monday for a Friday morning hearing, and the disciplinary panel might make a decision by lunch.
So, a Marietta criminal defense lawyer doesn’t have much time to plan. The short timeframe makes early intervention very critical.
Many college students are under the influence of alcohol during a criminal incident. Depending on the offense, voluntary intoxication could be a complete defense or a mitigating circumstance.
Voluntary intoxication is a complete defense to aggravated assault and other specific intent crimes. Scientifically, these individuals cannot form the intent to commit the act (the assault) and bring about the result (seriously injuring the alleged victim). Intoxicated defendants can do one or the other, but not both.
Usually, prosecutors go easy on defendants who voluntarily and quickly address alcohol problems. Everyone, including prosecutors, loves a good comeback story. If the defendant turns things around, that doesn’t change what happened in the past, but it does change what could happen in the future. Defendants who overcome such disabilities are less likely to reoffend and so usually receive light punishment.
As mentioned, this light punishment often includes unsupervised probation followed by case dismissal, if the defendant toes the line.
Criminal cases could derail educational plans. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta criminal defense attorney, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We routinely handle matters in Cobb County and nearby jurisdictions.