6 Common College-Related Offenses

College can provide a new realm for students to explore. However, with this new sense of freedom comes additional responsibility for their actions, whose consequences they may or may not be aware of. In today’s blog, we discuss common offenses committed on university campuses that you or your child should be aware of.

Larceny

Larceny refers to the taking of someone’s personal property without their consent and with the intent of depriving them of ownership or use of that property. Examples of larceny include theft, pick-pocketing, purse snatching, and identity theft.

In Massachusetts, there are two categories of larceny – under larceny and over larceny. Under larceny is a misdemeanor that occurs when the property in question is values at less than $1,200, and over larceny is a felony that occurs when the value of the property is worth $1,200 or more. Sentencing for larceny varies depending on the case, but the maximum sentence is 5 years in prison.

To convict someone of larceny in Massachusetts, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:

  • the defendant took and carried away property;
  • the property was owned or possessed by someone other than the defendant;
  • the defendant took that property from someone who owned or possessed it; and
  • the defendant intended to deprive the victim of the property permanently.

In some cases, this can be challenging for the prosecution to prove because they must show the defendant had a specific intent.

Underage Drinking

According to state law, it is illegal for anyone under age 21 to possess or consume alcohol, buy or sell alcohol, use a fake ID to obtain alcohol, or operate a motor vehicle while under the influence. The state’s Zero Tolerance Law establishes the Blood Alcohol Concentration limit at 0.02% for minors stopped for operating a vehicle under the influence, and a conviction for violating the state’s minor in possession law is a misdemeanor.

Massachusetts does recognize 3 exceptions to the general rule prohibiting minors from possessing or consuming alcohol, however:

  • Employment – An establishment licensed to sell alcohol may employ minors between 18 and 21 years old to handle, sell, knowingly possess, transport, or carry—but not consume—alcohol.
  • Accompanied by a parent or legal guardian – Minors who are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian may knowingly possess, transport, or carry—but not consume—alcohol.
  • Children, wards, and spouses on private property – A person older than 21 may procure alcohol for a child, grandchild, ward, or spouse while on property owned or controlled by the person older than 21.

Using a fake ID to obtain alcohol is a criminal offense punishable by up to 3 months in jail and a fine up to $200. It is also a criminal offense to manufacture, lend, or sell a false ID to a minor.

Drug Possession

According to Massachusetts’ executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the majority of drug arrests are related to possession or use of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and prescription drugs. These kinds of drugs have a presence on college campuses, and drug-related charges are growing increasingly common at universities.

Note that less than 1 ounce of marijuana for personal use and up to 10 ounces in the home is not penalized in Massachusetts. However, possession of more than 1 ounce could lead to a misdemeanor charge of 6 months in jail and $500 in fines for a first offense and 2 years in jail and $2,000 in fines for a subsequent offense. Possession of cocaine, on the other hand, is punishable by 1 year in prison for the first offense and a possible $1000 fine, and subsequent offenses can lead to a 2-year prison sentence and up to a $2000 fine.

Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is defined as any crime in which the offender subjects the victim to sexual touching that is unwanted and offensive. Such an unwanted sex act is often forced upon someone, whether it is penetration or simply sexualized touching.

There are two categories of sexual assault in Massachusetts law – indecent assault and battery, and aggravated sexual assault. If any medical attention is required due to injuries sustained during a sexual assault, it becomes a case of aggravated sexual assault, which will order much harsher punishments including longer prison sentences. If convicted, sexual assault will land the offender in prison and likely on the Massachusetts Sex Offender Registry Board.

For more information on college-related sexual assault legislation, refer to our previous blogs on Title IX accusations and on defending against sex crimes.

Cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is a category of stalking that occurs through some form of technology such as text messaging, emails, message boards, or, more commonly, social media. Cyberstalking includes many different types of conduct, such as gossip, taunting, sexual harassment, intimidation, and even threats.

Massachusetts law states that any person who willfully and maliciously engages in a knowing pattern of conduct which seriously alarms, annoys, or causes a person to suffer emotional distress and makes an intentional threat to place the victim in fear of bodily injury is guilty of stalking. The law establishes that this kind of stalking can be transmitted through electronic mail, internet communications, and even instant messages. Anyone found guilty of cyberstalking could face a prison sentence of up to 5 years and a fine of $1,000 depending on the severity of the offense.

Operating Under the Influence (OUI)

It is illegal to operate your motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit to be charged with OUI is 0.08%, and anyone with a BAC above 0.20% could face enhanced penalties.

Note that if you are suspected of an OUI in Massachusetts, a police officer can require you to take a blood or breath test to determine the amount of alcohol in your system. The state’s implied consent laws establish that along with your privilege to drive is your implied agreement to take a chemical test when a police officer suspects you of driving while intoxicated. If you refuse to take the test, the penalties can include an automatic driver's license suspension for 120 days following a first offense and 180 days following a second offense.

The sentencing for an OUI conviction could include:

  • jail time up to 2.5 years;
  • $500-5,000 in fines;
  • license suspension or revocation for 1 year (first offense), 2 years (second offense), 8 years (third offense);
  • mandatory alcohol education, assessment, and treatment;
  • possible vehicle confiscation;
  • possible installation of ignition interlock device (required for repeat offenders).

Depending on your case, you might be able to reduce your license suspension period if you take an alcohol education course.

Let Brad Bailey Law Defend Your Case

While college students experience a new level of freedom as they leave home to attend university, they might face situations when they have unknowingly committed a crime or are not aware of the criminal level of their actions. If you or your child are facing charges for campus-related offenses, contact Brad Bailey Law immediately for legal representation. Our firm has represented numerous college students in court and have the experience necessary to defend you or your child’s rights.

Speak with Brad Bailey Law today to schedule your consultation.

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