Getting caught by the police when doing something against the law means facing arrest, spending a night in jail and dealing with a criminal charge. Anyone accused of a crime, whether due to improper analysis of circumstances or mistaken identity, could face incarceration, financial penalties and other legal consequences if convicted.
While the criminal penalties that people face for a specific charge are usually the same, the personal circumstances of someone’s life at the time of their arrest can affect how significant those charges are for their future.
College students are among some of the most vulnerable people when it comes to the negative effects of criminal charges on their lives. There are three unique concerns that college students have when facing a charge.
- A criminal conviction likely means discipline at school
Most colleges have standards for their students that involve certain behavioral requirements. A conviction for a criminal offense often violates those terms. Students can face disciplinary action that could mean a semester off of class, community service at the school or even expulsion.
While students do have the opportunity to defend themselves in disciplinary hearings, it can be hard to do so if the institution has a strict policy on criminal convictions.
- A criminal record can make paying for college a lot harder
Students get financial aid in many different forms. Some apply for grants and work-study programs. Others use subsidized student loans. Still others qualify for various scholarship programs.
Federal student aid applications inquire about criminal convictions, and many offenses may indefinitely prevent students from qualifying for federal financial aid. Additionally, many private scholarship programs have rules about the conduct of recipients and applicants.
Students may not be able to get private or school-funded scholarships with a conviction on their record or may lose an existing scholarship. Sometimes, there may even be an obligation to repay any amount disbursed during the semester when the conviction or arrest took place.
- Getting on to a professional track will be much harder with a record
Entry-level positions in good careers are often highly competitive. Recent college graduates may struggle to find gainful employment in their field. Anyone who graduates college with a criminal record will have yet another factor affecting their chances of finding a job.
Although anyone charged with a crime needs to explore how to defend themselves, students just starting out in life have even more to lose than others charged with similar offenses.