Articles Posted in Student Crimes

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Massachusetts assault case brought against a student who was involved in a serious fight resulting in the victim sustaining several broken bones. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether a statement made by the defendant to a police officer was admissible when it was made after the officer made assurances that the defendant’s cooperation would likely result in his not being charged with a felony. Ultimately, the court concluded that under the totality of the circumstances, the police officer’s untrue statement rendered the defendant’s statement involuntary.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was involved in a fight with a fellow student at a house party. After the fight, the complaining witness was taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries. He later spoke to police, telling them what happened but stating that he could not identify who it was who attacked him.

The police conducted an investigation and obtained some evidence tying the defendant to the house party. The assigned investigator contacted a less senior officer and asked him to call the defendant to see what he knew. The detective told the officer that he believed another person was responsible for the assault, but the defendant was involved, and if the defendant cooperated, he would potentially be charged with a less serious crime.

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Boston police officers and those from neighboring suburbs are cracking down on local parties and particularly tracking houses that have a lot of noise and other complaints. Recently four Boston University Students were charged for repeatedly throwing wild parties at a house in Allston and held for three nights in jail. The most recent party in January violated their pretrial probation terms. In September 2013, they were arrested and charged with one count apiece of keeping a disorderly house at an earlier party involving over 200 people. The house was used by the BU fraternity Zeta Beta Tau and the fraternity was suspended because BU believes the house was being used for underage drinking.

At the second, party, the police arrived at 1:00 a.m. People at the party slammed the door in their faces and locked them. People began exiting in droves through doors and windows. When they got inside, the police officers found furniture rearranged, the smell of marijuana and more than 1000 beer cans in their house. As a result of the second arrests and probation violation, the students’ bail was revoked.

The two parties were considered to be in the top 10% of disorderly parties. However, the second arrest and jail stay had to do with violating probation, not with the disorderly house. At the arraignment, all four young men hid their faces with their hands. They were released from jail on their personal recognizance, but criticized strongly by the judge who noted the sacrifices their parents had made for them to attend a world-class university (that costs about $58,530 per year for an undergraduate degree. All four decided to move out of the house.
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A little known fact within the Massachusetts criminal justice system, is the potential for any criminal defendant to be put on pretrial probation in lieu of criminal charges. You read that right, any potential defendant.The relevant statute reads as follows:

The superior court, any district court and any juvenile court may place on probation in the care of its probation officer any person before it charged with an offense or a crime for such time and upon such conditions as it deems proper, with the defendant’s consent, before trial and before a plea of guilty, or in any case after a finding or verdict of guilty;

Therefore, in addition to stating that any person may be placed on probation, it also states that the terms of such probation to be those that it deems proper. This allows the court the flexibility to customize the terms based upon the individual case at hand. As you can imagine, however, the reality of actually securing a pretrial diversion in lieu of criminal charges depends upon a variety of factors. Most notably among these is the experience and persuasiveness of your defense attorney.

In practice, the pre-trial probation, which is technically referred to as pre-trial diversion, is a court approved agreement reached between the defendant and the prosecutor prior to trial or the entering a guilty plea. Therefore, if you enter a guilty plea prematurely, such as if you decide to forego the advice of counsel, you effectively waive your right to this potential option.

According to the terms of a pre-trial diversion agreement, the defendant is placed on probation under the care of a probation officer, either supervised or unsupervised, for a defined period of time, and according to certain agreed upon terms. Once the defendant successfully completes the probation term, the charges will be dismissed completely.

However, if the defendant violates any condition of his probation, the charges will not be dismissed, and the case will proceed normally. Meaning charges will be formally filed, and the defendant could face a trial, and potentially jail time. However, a defendant cannot be jailed for violating this pretrial probation, since technically, that individual has not been found guilty of anything yet. However, the court could then decide to hold a person without bail, if it so decides.
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As evidenced by recent news coverage, high school college student crime is significant and is an evolving and expanding area of the law. With the advent of social networking sites such as Facebook, twitter, YouTube, etc., issues involving high school and college students have become widely publicized and come under intense scrutiny and criticism. The ever-evolving world of social networking websites has opened the lives of its users to the public, carrying with it certain advantages and disadvantages. This technological phenomenon, which has created links between different people and cultures of the world, has resulted in a need for the development of new laws to police people’s online actions. There are many issues arising from the use of social networking websites, such as privacy issues, internet scams and phishing, negative repercussions of website use in areas of business and employment, and the protection of children. For instance, high school students may now be held accountable for their actions on social networking sites, such as bullying other students, making threats against teachers and students, and posting inappropriate content or images. Similarly, on college campuses, students have been subject to punishment for partaking in illegal activities such as underage drinking, drug-related offenses, and sexual assaults on other students. Social networks can be a resourceful tool to market yourself or your business, reconnect with old friends, and even find romance; the important thing is to remember that these sites can be misused, and have damaging repercussions to high school and college students that may potentially affect their future. Criminal prosecution in court and expulsion or suspension from school or college can be expected when crimes are committed or exposed using social networking sites.

While many social networking sites have age restrictions in place to regulate their user base, it is quite simple to enter a fake birth date and gain access to these sites. The problem with young users is that they are not aware of the risks that these social networking sites create. Many young people share too much information online and do not realize that anyone with an Internet connection can view it, even pedophiles, employers, teachers, their school nemesis, and their parents. Even police departments have begun to integrate the use of social networking sites in investigations. The Boston Globe reports that police officials in half of fourteen departments surveyed admitted to using social networking websites to gather information when investigating crimes involving young people. This is the root of the problems now faced by an increasing number of high school and college age students.

Social networking has also come under scrutiny due to the tendency of teen bullies to target teen victims on the sites. Bullying has become a serious and widespread issue in the United States, with the National Crime Prevention Council reporting that 43% of teens were the victim of bullying in the past year, and has called upon the sites to help prevent bullying and catch those committing the acts. For instance, videos of beatings and humiliation have been posted to the popular video hosting website YouTube, and have caused certain individuals to take their own lives due to the ridicule and embarrassment felt from the posts. The videos themselves have actually led police to the identification of the bully and introduced the video or posting as evidence against them in trial.
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