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Criminal Defense Attorneys for USF Students

When a student at the University of South Florida (USF) is accused of a crime or another type of misconduct, the attorney should contact an experienced criminal defenses attorney who is also familiar with representing college students during disciplinary hearings

Whether you are issued a notice to appear in court to answer criminal charges or formally arrested and booked into the jail, the University of South Florida might find out about the criminal offense and initiate a disciplinary process. Students accused of criminal misconduct must fight the criminal accusation in a courtroom and the disciplinary action at the formal hearing before the University Conduct Board or the Administrative Officer. 

Even a criminal offense that occurs off campus can lead to a disciplinary action as USF. If you have questions about the University Student Conduct Process at USF, then contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm to discuss your case. 

We represent students at every stage including the initial review meeting and during a formal hearing before the University Conduct Board or the Administrative Officer. We also represent students who wish to appeal the decision in writing to the Dean of Students.

In most cases, you and your attorney will meet with the Dean of Students to discuss your appeal. Although the decision of the Dean of Students is the final decision of the University of South Florida, you can appeal that decision through a Writ of Certiorari to a Circuit Court Judge in Hillsborough County or a higher court. Appeals are usually reserved for due process violations.

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm take a full-service approach to helping you in the criminal case and the disciplinary hearing. We will help you complete a release form that allows the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities to discuss any and all information related to your disciplinary file with the attorney.

The form will also allow your attorney to get a copy of the disciplinary record and any evidence that might be presented against you at the formal disciplinary hearing. 


Parental Notification Policy at USF

Although the student will be notified, parents of dependent students who are under the age of 21, will NOT be notified of the alleged violation of the Student Code of Conduct until after a finding is entered. In fact, many parents don’t find out what happened under they are notified under the USF Parental Notification Policy after sanctions are imposed. 

The Parental Notification Police allows the University of South Florida to inform parents or guardians when their dependent student, under the age of 21, has been found in violation of the University’s alcohol and substance abuse policy. The notification is usually sent by mail. In some emergency situations, the parents may be notified by an immediate telephone call from the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities or the Dean of Students. 

Parents can also be notified of other policy violations that may endanger the health, safety and well-being of a student or other individuals in the USF community. In addition, parental notification may occur in health and safety emergencies regardless of the student’s age or dependent status.

Since it is likely that the parent will be notified later in the process, it is usually in the student's best interest to tell their parents as soon as possible so that their parents can help them understand the process and determine if they need a criminal defense attorney to represent them. 


Double Jeopardy Doesn’t Apply to the Student Conduct Hearing

One of the most frequent questions that students ask is whether the disciplinary hearing constitutes double jeopardy since they are also facing criminal charges in court. The Code of Conduct states: “Students accused of a crime may be prosecuted under the appropriate jurisdiction and also disciplined under the Student Code of Conduct. The University may pursue disciplinary action even if criminal justice authorities choose not to prosecute, and it may also act independently of the criminal judicial process.” 

Therefore, the concept of double jeopardy does not apply to allegations in the criminal courts and the college’s disciplinary hearing. 


Disciplinary Actions for Off-Campus Conduct

At the University of South Florida, the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities has jurisdiction over conduct that occurs on the University Campus or at any USF sponsored event including sporting events. The University also has jurisdiction to deal with conduct that adversely impacts the University community. Therefore, the officials at USF can initiate disciplinary charges for conduct off campus when the behavior impacts:

  • the good name of the University;
  • the integrity of the educational process; or
  • the safety and welfare of the University community.

Steps in the Student Conduct Process

At the University of South Florida in Tampa, the steps in the student conduct process can include:

  1. A complaint is filed that alleges a student conduct code violation (in some cases law enforcement will forward a police report, citation, or notice to appear to the University).
  2. Notice of the violation is sent to the student.
  3. The student and the student's attorney will attend the Initial Review meeting.
  4. If after receiving notice that a referral was made, the student fails to respond or fails to appear for a meeting with the Conduct Officer, then an “In Absentia Review” will be conducted by the Conduct Officer who will make a determination and levy the appropriate sanctions.
  5. If you attend the Initial Review you can either accept responsibility or demands a formal hearing.
  6. If the student accepts responsibility, then the sanctions will be provided in the Determination Letter.
  7. The student must complete the conditions imposed in the disposition letter or face additional sanctions.
  8. If the student does not wish to accept responsibility, the student can demand a Formal Hearing before the University Conduct Board of the Administrative Officer;
  9. If you fail to complete the sanctions imposed, then you will have a hold placed on your records which will prevent you from obtaining transcripts, registering or withdrawing from classes.
  10. After any decision, you have the right to appeal to the Dean of Students and thereafter, to a Circuit Court Judge during Writ of Certiorari.

Accepting Responsibility for a Violation of the Student Code of Conduct

If the student accepts responsibility for an alleged violation of the student code of conduct, then a Disposition Letter will be issued. The student must then complete any sanctions required and explained in the Disposition Letter. The letter contains a description of assignments that must be completed, the names of the individuals you need to contact, and the deadlines for completing the sanctions. 


Selecting a Formal Hearing

We can help you decide whether you should “accept responsibility” for the alleged violation of the student code of conduct or demand a formal hearing. If you decide not to accept responsibility for the alleged student conduct code violations, then you can elect to have a Formal Hearing to contest the allegations. At the formal hearing, it will be determined whether the student is “responsible” or “not responsible” for a violation of the Student Code of Conduct. The determination is made by the University Conduct Board or the Administrative Officer. 

If the student is found to be “responsible” at the formal hearing, then sanctions can be imposed. In some cases, the sanctions imposed are nearly identical to the original Disposition letter. In other cases, the sanctions can be considerably better and sometimes the sanctions are increased. 

The sanctions are determined by the conduct officer based on the following: 

  • the report of the alleged violation;
  • the information presented by the student about what occurred;
  • evidence from the reports of witnesses or others involved in the case; and
  • whether the student has any prior disciplinary history.

You are entitled to have an attorney present if you choose for the attorney to act as your “advisor.” Your attorney can speak with you, help you prepare a statement, and help you present evidence in your defense. The attorney is not allowed to speak for the student, but the attorney can sit next to the student during the hearing to help the student make a statement, answer questions, present evidence, or prepare questions to be asked of the witnesses supporting the complaint.

You can present witnesses who can offer relevant information. Your witnesses can also provide a written statement or be present to testify at the hearing. Your attorney can help you determine which witnesses should appear on your behalf and what questions they can be asked. 


What Happens at the Formal Hearing?

At the Formal Hearing, evidence will be presented as to whether you violated the USF Student Code of Conduct. The burden of proof is on the complainant to prove the allegations by “substantial evidence.” The term “substantial evidence” is defined as “whether it is reasonable to conclude from the information submitted that the student did commit the violation(s) for which he or she has been referred.” The standard is less strict than the criminal law standard of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.”


Appealing Decisions of the University Conduct Board or Administrative Officer

Within five days of the decision, you have the right to appeal the decision in writing to the Dean for Students. In most cases, you and your attorney will meet with the Dean for Students to discuss your appeal. Although the decision of the Dean for Students is the final decision of the University of South Florida, you can appeal that decision through a Writ of Certiorari to a higher court.


What Records Are Created During the Student Conduct Process? 

The disciplinary actions do not appear on academic transcripts. If yo are suspended for a period of time, however, during that during that period a notation will appear on the academic transcript noting that the student is suspended due to conduct issues. The notation on the academic transcript is often removed once the suspension period is over. 

The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities maintains all campus conduct records in accordance with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities will not comment on the fact that a student is involved in the student conduct process. In some cases, the Student Rights and Responsibilities staff, including the University Conduct Board, will inform the complainant about the outcome of the conduct proceeding when appropriate. 


Additional Resources

Student Code of Conduct - Find out more about a student’s rights as explained in the USF Student Code of Conduct and on the USF website under the link for "Rights and Responsibilities". The USF Student Code of Conduct applies to any student, registered organization or a person who has submitted an application for admission, housing, or any other service provided by the University which requires student status will be subject to the Student Code of Conduct for any action found in violation of the Code which occurs on University property, at University-sponsored events, or off campus if the action adversely affects the University community and/or the pursuit of the University’s mission.

Office of Student Rights and Responsiblities
John and Grace Allen Administration Building
Room 109
University of South Florida
4202 E. Fowler Avenue
Tampa, FL 33620
(813) 974-9443

Attorneys for College Students at the University of South Florida

The attorneys at the Sammis Law Firm are experienced in representing students at USF after a criminal accusation or any type of violation of the student code of conduct. We are experienced in representing students after both misdemeanor and felony accusations.

Don't make a statement to the police or take responsibility for the violation until after you have spoken to an attorney. We have been through this many times and we can help you at every stage of the process. 

We have representing clients on a wide range of student code violations including every thing from a violation of 4.17 for Misuse of Alcohol to more serious charges of sexual battery. If you received a Notification of Initial Review Letter for Code of Conduct Violations then contact us to discuss the case as soon as possible.

Call our criminal defense attorneys for USF students at 813-250-0500 today.


This article was last updated on Tuesday, August 23, 2016.