You were dealing with a lot of personal stuff this college semester, so when the deadline for your lab assignment sprung up, you figured you’d just take the data off a website and pass it off as your own. You didn’t think the professor would find out, or that it would hurt this one time. After all, you would have done the work if not for that girlfriend or sick relative.

But the professor had more savvy than you expected. Now you are facing charges of academic dishonesty stemming from fabrication or falsification of data on an assignment. If disciplined, you may be failed from the class, suspended or worse, expelled.

What can you do? Before you give your side of the story to a seemingly sympathetic professor or administrator, you are advised to consult an attorney. What seems like a reasonable explanation to you might be just enough for an administrator to rule against you.

Whatever you do, don’t start talking about the situation with others, who might in turn become the school’s witnesses. Many Universities or Colleges strongly encourage students to expose others who seem to be violating the academic dishonesty rules, no matter how flimsy the evidence may be. You should also refrain from mentioning the charges on electronic media such as texting, email or Facebook-type pages.

If you are charged with fabrication, there is still hope. An experienced attorney can help you determine the best avenue for a defense on procedural or substantive grounds. Did the school follow its own student policy manual procedures when charging you with the offense? The policy manual is like a contract between you and the school, and you should attempt to bind them to it.

Is it clear that you actually fabricated your data? Maybe you really did your own work but utilized some outside information without at all intending to present the material as your own data.

Even if you already admitted that you completely made up your data, you may still qualify for a less severe penalty. Perhaps you are generally of good character, but were under exceptional stress. Perhaps expulsion is too extreme a punishment for the degree of your offense.

If you are charged with fabrication, falsification or academic dishonesty, consult an attorney who practices school law right away. It is important to act quickly to preserve your rights. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact me at 847-568-0160 or email me at matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.


Graduation is just days away, and you have a bad case of senioritis. You and your buddies were ready for summer three months ago. But before you leave school, you thought it would be hilarious to play one final joke on the school. You think of it as “your legacy.” You’d just love to see the look on the principal’s face when she comes in Monday morning and finds the school’s mascot has been torched. Or maybe you and your friends decided to graffiti a few choice thoughts about school on the new building addition.

But you weren’t expecting to get caught.

Now, you and your friends face suspension–right before graduation. In addition, you’ve been slapped with criminal damage to property charges. And your parents are none too happy about the prospect of a civil suit against them to pay for the damage you caused.

What can you do?

If you find yourself in a similar situation, it is essential that you contact an attorney immediately. An attorney can evaluate your defense. Maybe the school failed to follow correct procedure before they expelled you. Maybe you didn’t take part in the prank and just happened to be there. Maybe the school lacks sufficient evidence to show you did anything wrong. Even if they have you on video lighting the fire or spraying the graffiti, an experienced attorney might be able to work out a deal with the school. For example, maybe the school would let you graduate if you paid back the damage.

Because the standard of proof in a criminal case is higher than in a school proceeding, an attorney may help you avoid a criminal record. Depending on your role, you might be eligible for a reduced penalty, or you might be able to avoid a criminal conviction.

If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com for advice.