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.