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Does it help that I’m “a good kid” when I’m charged with a crime?

Many college students that are charged with criminal offenses are quick to point out the highlights of their resume when they first meet with me: a high GPA, a clean record, community service, and a professional aspiration that simply cannot tolerate a criminal conviction. It seems like these accomplishments must count for something in reducing the student’s criminal or university sanction. Do they? The answer is generally yes, but with some caveats.

First, an impressive resume is a good negotiating tool for your attorney. If I am trying to convince a prosecutor to reduce or amend charges, it certainly helps to be able to rattle off a list of my client’s accomplishments. 

Second, an impressive resume is helpful to your attorney in mitigating the sentence given by the Judge. Assuming that a college student pleads or is found guilty of at least one offense, the attorney and the client will have an opportunity to address the court in “mitigation” — meaning that we can describe why the client should receive the lowest possible sentence within the legal range of sentences. My job becomes much easier when I can say that my client has a 3.8 GPA and is headed to the Peace Corps before medical school (for example).

Third, an impressive resume can be presented to a hearing officer at a university discipline hearing to mitigate the disciplinary sanction. University officials in particular will inquire into the student’s grade point average as a proxy for how “at-risk” the student is to re-offend. Character letters are also particularly helpful to the university official.

Now for some caveats. If you are subject to a mandatory minimum university sanction (i.e. two strike alcohol policy at Miami University), no amount of “good character” is going to get the school to change the policy just for you. University officials will tell you that “the law is the law,” so to speak. Second, if you are charged with an offense in a college town like Oxford, Ohio, realize that MOST of the students charged with crimes have spectacular resumes and little to no prior record—it takes a lot to stand out amongst an accomplished crowd. Finally, if you enter into a “Diversion Program” for say an underage drinking offense, it is likely that the Judge will never hear any “mitigation” on your case — meaning that it won’t be considered, but it also won’t matter. Why? Because successful completion of Diversion results in your cases being dismissed anyway. In other words, once you get the dismissal, there is no need for additional mitigation—take the dismissal and run.

Have a great resume, but also a criminal charge? Contact the attorneys at Rittgers & Rittgers to talk about how to parlay your past success into future mitigation. 

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