When a Miami University student is charged with a crime, the consequences can be serious and are certainly burdensome. Why? When a student is charged with a crime, not only must the student answer to the charges in court, the student must also answer to the school for violating university policy. This is because when a crime is committed, the university will inevitably initiate disciplinary proceedings during which at least one hearing will occur. Even if the student is not charged with a crime, the university will initiate disciplinary proceedings against the student if there is reason to believe the student violated the university’s code of conduct.
Of course, while permitted, it is never wise for a criminal defendant to represent him or herself on criminal charges. Similarly, it is never wise for students to represent themselves in a student disciplinary proceeding. Once an ethics violation is stamped on a student transcript, the stigma never goes away. Legal counsel is needed. The university even recognizes this, which is precisely why the university expressly permits an attorney to advise the student at a disciplinary hearing.
Generally speaking, once the student receives notification of a violation, a hearing will be held before either a hearing officer, the student court, the disciplinary board, or an administrative hearing panel. The entity before which an initial hearing takes place depends on the nature of the alleged violation and the potential consequences the student faces on the violation. In some cases, the student can even elect which type of hearing he or she desires depending on the alleged violation.
In the early stages of the proceedings, a student may admit to the violation by entering a plea of “responsible” or deny the violation by entering a plea of “not responsible.” From there, similar to criminal procedure, the case will be set for a hearing. At the hearing, the student may give a statement and ultimately has the opportunity to challenge any evidence introduced by the Office of Ethics & Student Conflict Resolution (“OESCR”). Further, the student may present his or her own evidence or witnesses supporting their position.
After the evidence is heard, the hearing officer, court, board, or panel members deliberate in closed session and announce their finding. If the student is found not responsible, the case is closed. If the student is found responsible, the hearing proceeds to a sanctioning phase. During this phase, the student may present relevant information concerning the student’s good character, academic success, future plans, and any other mitigating factors the student wishes to present. However, OESCR has the opportunity to be heard during the sanctioning phase as well.
Ultimately, the hearing officer, court, board, or panel members will once again deliberate in closed session and announce their decision concerning sanctions it will impose on the student. Some of these sanctions include mandatory suspension periods and hefty minimum fees. These sanctions can obviously have life-changing effects on students and their future plans for success.
If you or someone you know is a student at Miami University facing disciplinary proceedings, do not wait until a hearing is held to decide if you should speak with an attorney. Please call the experienced attorneys at Rittgers & Rittgers for a free consultation at 513-932-2115.