Quick Tips for Spring Break-ing College Students: How to Avoid a Conduct Charge When You Return to Campus

One of the best times of the year: Your college spring break trip!

One of the worst times of the year: Opening your inbox containing an email from your campus conduct office!

It is inevitable that our office phones start ringing off the hook in late March and April with parents and college students calling for help. A Spring Break arrest, or hook up, or hazing investigation are the most common issues we see during this time. Most college codes of conduct DO, in fact, govern or extend to off-campus behavior of students. Said a different way, YES, your school likely can discipline you for Spring Break transgressions.

What if I am arrested?

The four most common alcohol-related scenarios college that occur during Spring Break (or any college football game, for that matter) are:

  1. Carrying alcohol in your hands while walking from place to place;
  2. Displaying public behavior that is disruptive, annoying, or dangerous;
  3. Providing a fake ID, instead of the real ID you keep behind your fake ID, to police officers;
  4. Failing to leave an establishment if asked to do so.  

If you can avoid the above, you will be in decent shape to avoid being arrested while on vacation. You will also avoid being taken to jail or facing a court date in an unfamiliar city and state. However, if you do get arrested, it is important to note generally that many courts have diversion programs for minor offenses IF YOU ASK. This could allow you to complete a class or community service in exchange for a dismissal of the offense. This could also allow you to avoid having to return to the Spring Break destination, after Spring Break has concluded, for a court date or two.

Typically, if you are arrested in another state or city, your college may not get wind of the citation and never pursue you for discipline within your school. The majority of the time, college students do not have a duty to disclose a criminal arrest to their school. However, most schools do have a provision within their code that would make any violation of a federal, state or city code a violation also a conduct violation warranting school discipline as well (if they find out).

What if I engage in sexual activity?

If you have a Spring Break “hook up,” there are four very basic, overly-simplified-for-a-short-blog-article, ways to protect yourself from criminal and Title IX/college code of conduct liability.

  1. Do not expect sexual activity following dancing, inuendoes, or flirting;
  2. Do not engage in sexual activity unless the other person is sober enough to know the 5 W’s: who, where, what, why, and when;
  3. Obtain consent prior to, and during, every sexual act which includes every change in sexual activity, touch, or position;
  4. If consent is withdrawn, aka you are told to STOP, then STOP what you are doing.  

Obviously, it would really be life-altering to be arrested for a criminal charge of rape. However, it is also life-altering to return to your campus with a complaint filed against you for sexual misconduct. If you think you’re on top of things because you have read a Title IX article that states schools cannot investigate sexual activity that occurs off-campus, you failed to understand that your school can – AND WILL – proceed to investigate sexual misconduct under their general student code of conduct. You will still be facing a very similar, if not identical, process with the resulting discipline for violations typically in the suspension or expulsion/dismissal range.  

What if I am traveling in a group with my fraternity brothers or sorority sisters?

If you are on a trip outside of the state with other members of your organization, be aware that expectations and rules concerning your behavior together will travel with you. The first consideration is whether the trip can be viewed as related to your organization, and the second consideration concerns the activity or behavior you are engaging in.

Obviously if the entire organization makes a trip together, or rents an event center in another state together, your school will consider that to be a fraternity or sorority event. Trips with only a handful of members likely will also be deemed related to your organization, even if your trip is not a sanctioned event or organized in any formal way through your fraternity or sorority. This is especially true if any “new members” or “pledges” are invited on your trip.

While on the trip, if you are engaging in behavior that would be considered hazing, it will still be considered hazing even though you have crossed a state line. Changing area codes does not protect you or your organization from investigation.

What if I get a letter from my college’s conduct office asking to meet?

There is no sense in waiting until after your initial meeting with the conduct office to contact an attorney-advisor. The damage may already be done, and there is no re-do. We assist students in understanding the process, your rights, and developing a long-term defense or mitigation strategy to meet your goals from the very start.

Authored by Leslie Albeit, Esq. of Albeit Weiker, LLP

Questions? Call us. 614-745-2001

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