A Boston Criminal Defense Lawyer Discusses Student Arrests And The Resulting Effects On A Student’s Future (Part One)

This week, the daily Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog examined various news stories about a particular large population in the Boston area, namely, students. Whether it be graduate school, college, high school or even grammar school, a momentary, perhaps youthful, mistake can bring a postponement or even end to a lifetime of future dreams for that student and accompanying family. Now, as schools are adjourning for the summer, and graduations are upon us, our weekly Attorney Sam’s Take discussion looks directly at how the criminal justice system, and its results, can effect Massachusetts students.

There is a lot to say, so this week’s Discussion is a two-parter, which will continue into and conclude tomorrow, Friday, June 12th.

How many times have you read about a youth getting arrested and thought, “Well, it’s a kid. A juvenile. What can they do to a kid…spank him?”

Well, no. Spanking has been off the criminal justice books for many a decade.

However, the myth that juvenile offenders cannot be damaged by the justice system, although widely believed, is not really true. Most kids, of course, do not realize that. This is why many ongoing criminal enterprises, such as drug traffickers, are often able to use juveniles to do the “dirty work” of street selling. They convince the young eager entrepreneur that “the law” cannot really touch him/her and so, while the chance for money is high, the accompanying risk is low.

This, however, is not true.

Juvenile Court, while perhaps not as severe as regular adult court, and the youth’s involvement with it, can damage that youth for life. This is particularly true in the case of a student who seeks to have an academic future.

First of all, understand that not every crime allegedly committed by a juvenile will be handled as a juvenile offense. Some violent crimes, usually homicide cases, can be treated in the adult halls of justice, complete with the youth being brought to trial as if he were an adult. That’s right…that can include adult sentences as well.

How severe?

Well, in some jurisdictions, such as federal court, even death. In jurisdictions which do not allow the death penalty, life imprisonment.

Severe enough for you?

Fortunately, these cases are not the norm. More typically, a juvenile facing allegations of criminal activity is treated to the not-so-warm-yet-alittle-warmer hands of Juvenile Court.

The chief difference between adult and juvenile court is rationale underlying each.

While rehabilitation is but a part of the stated goals of adult court’s criminal sentences, it is considered the cornerstone in Juvenile Court. Of course, this cornerstone is usually meted out in a “tough love” fashion. Further, it does not mean that the highest sentence a Juvenile Court can render is a severe reprimand and detention. No, the youth facing justice in Juvenile Court can face incarceration.

Incarceration in the juvenile setting is not in regular jail. While incarceration in adult matters is handled by the Department of Corrections, youthful offenders are housed by the Department of Youth Services, or “DYS”. In many ways, the “time inside” is different. But make no mistake…it is incarceration.

Of course, being sent to DYS is the heaviest type of sentence that can be handed down by juvenile court and DYS’ jurisdiction over the youth ends when he becomes of age.

Of course, other aspects of the sentence, such as, in sexual assault cases, registration with the Sex Offender Regtistry (SORB) does not necessarily end at that magic age.

Other than the sentence passed down by the court, there are other, sometimes longer lasting, ramifications that can be faced by the juvenile offender.

These have less to do with DYS and more to do with the defendant’s lifestyle and future.

Especially, the student’s academic future.

Schools will know, at least so long as the defendant is a juvenile, about any criminal involvement. Obviously, that can have an effect on admission to various schools. If the defendant has goals of a future in certain professions, those goals can be thwarted by what academic path she has to take. Therefore, a student who perhaps has always gotten excellent grades and does extremely well on standardized testing and, aside from some youthful indiscretions (varying in seriousness), may no longer be acceptable to certain private schools and colleges because of said indiscretions.

Writing “Hey, I would have gone to more prestigious schools had it not been for that little issue of gun-toting” will not generally help too much by way of explanation on later applications.

Naturally, one’s academic path can also effect one’s later career or employment opportunities in the same way.

Along those lines, we examined a very recent cases wherein college students, and even a high school student, was not allowed to graduate as scheduled because of some infraction…or, in the case of Harvard University, suspected infraction assumed because of a friendship with a friend of a suspected criminal. Clearly, not graduating, or not graduating on time, brings its own ramifications and blemishes to the future goals of a student.

Often, a school will suspend or even expel as student because of criminal involvement, or suspicions of same. This, too, does not actually empower later applications as one’s school record generally follows the youth.

Depending on the criminal activity, other agencies, such as the Registry of Motor Vehicles and Department of Immigration (where applicable) may have a reaction to the indiscretion as well.

Suffice to say that the old adage of “Boys will be boys” does not protect such a “boy” very much anymore. While age will bring about some “break” in terms of criminal justice, it is not a valid defense to various crimes…and hardly of use in the regular world in many cases.

We often comfort the younger among us with the offering of, “Hey, you have your whole life ahead of you”. Sometimes, however, we forget that while that is true… that thought can make an already frightening situation even more scary.

“Why?”, you ask.

Because it is an even longer road through which a youth’s path may be tainted, limited or even curtailed, as a result of a mistake which has brought him or her to the attention of the authorities.

Lest we forget, not all students are juveniles. The Boston area is full of colleges, universities and graduate schools. Involvement in the criminal justice system can be particularly hard on the adult student in trouble.

With even more serious last effects.

And that is what we will discuss tomorrow, in Part Two of this blog.

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