A question that we are commonly asked when a college student who is charged with a crime in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts meets with us for the initial free consultation is: What is the difference between defending criminal charges before the university disciplinary review board and the Massachusetts court system?
This is question is quite broad, and would take more than a single blog post to address the myriad of differences between strategy and procedure when defending criminal charges before either a university disciplinary board or a court in the Commonwealth. Notwithstanding, I will generally discuss a couple of the most glaring differences between the two situations.
First, the attorneys at the criminal defense litigation group at Parker|Scheer LLP approach every client and every case differently. Every client that steps into one of our conference rooms has his or her own idea of what the ideal outcome would be for their particular situation. In a similar vein, every case is extremely fact specific and must be addressed accordingly - the most effective strategy often varies because an experienced criminal defense attorney works with each client to tailor the approach to the individual goals and the specific facts and allegations that are involved with their particular situation.
With that being said, the first palpable distinction between criminal proceedings before a university disciplinary board and a state court in the Commonwealth is the underlying objective of each respective establishment. The structure and procedures vary slightly at every individual university disciplinary board; but, the primary objective is universal - education. This is the first glaring distinction between a university disciplinary board and the Massachusetts courts. In contrast, the courts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts place less emphasis on educating an individual that is charged with a criminal offense. Instead, the objectives of Massachusetts courts consist of a blend of punishment, restitution, acceptance of responsibility and rehabilitation. An experienced criminal defense lawyer adapts the particular strategy of the defense to the underlying objectives of the establishment.
A second common distinction between the proceedings before university disciplinary boards and the courts are the rules of procedure and evidence. In criminal proceedings before the state courts, we utilize the Rules of Criminal Procedure and the common law rules of evidence to the advantage of our clients in pursuit of a favorable outcome. For example, the Rules of Criminal Procedure provide for the opportunity to challenge incriminating evidence that was obtained illegally, utilizing motions to suppress evidence, and motions to dismiss criminal complaints that lack probable cause. Additionally, the rule against hearsay and other evidentiary principles allow an experienced criminal defense trial lawyer to exclude and move to suppress incriminating evidence that would otherwise be introduced and offered against our clients. These rules of procedure simply do not exist when we assist our clients in effectively resolving a matter before the university disciplinary boards. Thus, the strategy differs, and we work with our clients to reach each individualized objective.
In sum, differences in strategy and procedure exist from the underlying objectives of the respective establishment, to the rules that govern the proceedings. Accordingly, it is extremely important to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer that is familiar with the different approaches that are necessary to effectively represent the interests of a college student that has been charged with a criminal offense before both the state courts in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and a university disciplinary board. While every client and every case is different, the objective of the criminal defense litigation group at Parker|Scheer LLP always remains the same - to protect the rights of our clients, and put them in the best position possible regardless of the venue or the allegations.
If you or a family member has been charged with criminal activity, please contact Parker | Scheer LLP for a free consultation with one of our experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Please also see Boston University Hockey Star Charged with Sexual Assault and Stonehill College Student Charged for comments by Attorney Tofani and related Boston Criminal Defense posts.