Assault and battery are serious offenses in Illinois. While they’re generally misdemeanors, they are still considered violent crimes. A conviction can result in lasting consequences such as jail time, probation, steep fines and a permanent criminal record.
For college students accused of any type of assault or battery, whether the incident occurred on- or off-campus, the stakes are even higher. Students have their whole lives ahead of them. Although they are adults in the eyes of the law, their brains aren’t fully developed, and they often make unwise decisions that can lead to life-altering consequences.
Accusations can trigger school disciplinary proceedings
Colleges and universities have codes of conduct and detailed policies for addressing violations of those codes. An arrest or criminal investigation for certain crimes, including assault, can trigger school disciplinary proceedings against the accused.
While the specifics of those proceedings vary by institution, they typically don’t offer the same rights and protections that defendants are entitled to in the criminal justice system. For example, in determining whether the accusations are true, educational institutions apply the “preponderance of the evidence” or “clear and convincing evidence” standard of proof rather than the “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies in criminal proceedings. The school only has to determine that it’s more likely than not or substantially more likely than not that the accused committed the infraction. They can suspend or expel the student on the basis of that decision.
This means it can be harder to challenge the accusations and to prove self-defense. It also means a student can end up getting expelled even if the criminal charges against them are dropped.
The long-term impact of assault accusations
Assault accusations that result in school disciplinary actions can deprive students of their educational opportunities for a long time to come. An expulsion makes it nearly impossible to enroll in other educational institutions or to secure professional licensures. Given these harsh consequences, it’s critical to work with a lawyer who understands how to defend college students.