You just received the notice. Your professor is turning you on an alleged charge of plagiarism, based on the results of an on-line tool. You know you didn’t do it. Or if there is a match, it was purely accidental. You want to fight the charge. But you looked up your school’s student code of conduct, and the policy manual specifically states that you cannot have an attorney.

Are you really stuck handling this on your own? What can you do?

Colleges and universities vary on the level of participation that an attorney can assume in an academic discipline proceeding. Some schools allow full participation with an attorney present at a hearing conducted much like a courtroom trial. Some schools allow an attorney to attend the hearing, but only for the purpose of whispering suggestions into the student’s ear and not to speak. Some schools do not permit an attorney at any time.

If you have read that you cannot have an attorney, then you have already taken an important first step by examining your school’s policy and procedures. The student policy manual or code of conduct acts like a contract between you and the school. A careful reading of the manual will help you determine how your offense is defined as well as what procedure the school should follow. But even though you are not allowed to have an attorney during the disciplinary process, you may still seek advice. An attorney can help guide you to the best strategy for combating the charges against you.

Furthermore, while an attorney may not be able to appear at a hearing, an attorney can help you draft any written responses that you need to submit to your school.

If you have been charged with an academic offense or have any questions about this topic, please feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or by emailing matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.


You had a little too much fun one night at the pub downtown. As you struggled to drive home, you blew a stop sign and next thing you knew, you were pulled over for DUI. Or maybe you were involved in some off-campus drug sales, or you shoplifted at the local grocer’s. In any event, you now face criminal charges, but still you hope to continue your studies and get on with your life.

Then you receive an unpleasant surprise. The University is charging you with violating their student code. While it may seem that what you do off-campus should stay off campus, many schools have extended their reach to off-campus behavior. Some schools prohibit all alcohol, drugs or even cigarettes, no matter where you used them. Showing up for class under the influence may be enough to get you expelled. Some schools’ codes even contain a catch-all provision, which prohibits violating any state, federal, or local law

What can you do? First, you need to determine if your offense falls within the university’s guidelines. An experienced attorney can help navigate the language of the Student Code to determine if the school has grounds to charge you. Even if they do, perhaps the school failed to follow its own procedural guidelines. Did they give you the proper notice? Are you getting the safeguards promised in the student code? An attorney can also help evaluate the evidence against you. If the criminal charges are later dismissed or you are found not guilty, the school may lack the proof necessary to show that you actually committed the violation.

If you find yourself charged with a crime or notified of a discipline offense, contact an attorney immediately. Do not speak to anyone or discuss your situation electronically on any chat room or Facebook-type pages. Any statements you make can later be used against you or can lock you out of a possible defense in both the criminal and university cases. If you have questions about your situation, feel free to contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.