Pennsylvania College Student Defense: Drug Crimes

Campus Drug Sales and Use

College can be one of the most transformative experiences of anyone's life. This is certainly the case in Pennsylvania, which boasts some of the best schools in the country, if not the world. The opportunity to learn from committed and skilled professors, interact with other intelligent students, and experience life outside the home environment is one that many students treasure for the rest of their lives.

The social lives of many students also transform during their college years as they meet new people from different backgrounds in settings that are outside the orbit of their families and high school friends. In some of these collegiate settings, of course, alcohol and drugs are regularly bought, sold, and consumed, and as a result, some students find themselves accused of violating not only school regulations but Pennsylvania and federal law as well.

Facing a drug-related charge is not something any student should ever do without representation by an attorney who has experience defending students in these complicated situations. Students, in particular, have to worry not only about the criminal charges against them but also about the school disciplinary proceedings they may face as well. Our Criminal Law Team has represented students across Pennsylvania charged with drug-related crimes and school drug code violations and can help if you have found yourself charged with a drug-related crime or school drug code violation in Pennsylvania.

Crime Enforcement on Pennsylvania College and University Campuses

Most schools in Pennsylvania have campus security forces, and some – like Penn State, Drexel, Temple, and the University of Pennsylvania – even have their own police departments. With campus security being so important to the safety and welfare of students, faculty, and staff, many schools have an amazingly wide network of video cameras and other surveillance devices that indiscriminately record the movements and activities of people on campus property and inside campus buildings.

Even at smaller schools, campus security will work closely with local police departments to enforce both campus rules and state and federal law. This, of course, includes enforcement of anti-drug laws, which are reinforced at the campus level by school disciplinary codes. And while recreational marijuana is legal in many states, at present, it is not legal in Pennsylvania or under federal law, and schools continue to discipline (and police continue to arrest) students for selling or consuming it on campus.

Pennsylvania Drug Crimes

When you're away at college on campus, it may sometimes feel like you're in a different world, one that is separate from your home life and away from the rest of everyday society. That's not by accident; many schools work very hard to create a special campus atmosphere that is intended to immerse students into the collegiate learning experience. It can be easy in these situations for students to feel as though they are in an isolated bubble, free from many of the cares and rules of the outside world. This, of course, is not the case, and where drug laws are concerned can lead to students openly selling and using illegal drugs on or near campus in the mistaken belief that they can do so without consequence. In reality, of course, there are a number of drug-related crimes that students can face while attending college in Pennsylvania.


Pennsylvania has a range of laws relating to marijuana use, possession, and sale, with penalties ranging from up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine (for possession of less than 30 grams) to up to 10 years in jail and up to a $100,00 fine (for sale, delivery, or distribution of 1000 lbs. or more). Philadelphia takes a more relaxed view; possession of 30 grams or less is treated as a civil violation with a $25 fine, and smoking in public can result in a $100 fine and nine hours of community service. That said, there is nothing to prevent a college or university in Philadelphia from instituting a school disciplinary proceeding against you even if the local police simply issued you a $25 ticket for possession.

While medical marijuana is legal in Pennsylvania, schools that receive federal funding generally do not offer an exception to their anti-drug policies for medically-approved marijuana use, citing the need to observe federal anti-drug law. As a result, even if you take medically-prescribed marijuana for legitimate medical reasons, you may still find yourself subject to school disciplinary procedures for doing so.

Other Drugs

Of course, a number of other drugs are also illegal in Pennsylvania, including many so-called "recreational" drugs that you may encounter as a student. The penalties associated with possession and sale of these vary depending on whether the charge is for possession or sale and where the particular drug falls in a five-level schedule that ranges from those having the least potential for abuse and some medically-accepted use to those with the highest potential for abuse and no medically-accepted use.

Where students are involved, the issues generally relate to the possession of relatively small amounts of drugs. In these cases, the legal penalty for possession can be up to one year in prison and up to a $5000 fine.

Sale of Illegal Drugs

Needless to say, when the charge relates to selling illegal drugs, whether to other students or to the general public, things can get very serious, and potential penalties increase substantially. Local governments and schools are, as a rule, united in their efforts to reduce, if not eliminate, the sale of illegal drugs on and off campus, and the laws and penalties for selling illegal drugs reflect those concerns.

In particular, penalties for the sale of relatively small amounts of an illegal drug range from up to one year in prison and up to a $5000 fine to up to five years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine, depending on the type of drug. For larger amounts, the penalties increase even further.

Defending Pennsylvania Student Drug Crime Charges

If you have been charged with the possession or sale of any illegal drugs, your very future is at stake, and you should not face the charges alone. Pleading guilty, even to a reduced charge, may leave you with a conviction record that can follow you throughout your career and result in you being expelled from school. The simple fact is that with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, particularly one who has represented students charged with drug-related offenses, your ability to protect your rights and your future increases dramatically. Our Criminal Law Team has been representing students charged with violating drug laws for years and is intimately familiar with the laws and procedures that relate to these crimes.

Our Criminal Law Team can help ease the very difficult burden of dealing with a criminal drug charge from early on in the case. We will work on your behalf to secure your quick release if you have been placed in custody after your arrest. By working with prosecutors and arguing on your behalf in court, we may be able to reduce or eliminate restrictions associated with your release pending trial. Our Criminal Law Team also knows what types of evidence and tactics police and prosecutors can use in court as well as what they are not allowed to do, and will protect you from efforts to admit evidence or statements that are not permitted under Pennsylvania law. We have also worked with prosecutors across Pennsylvania to reduce or eliminate charges in favor of approved diversion programs and other alternative ways of resolving drug cases. And if your case does go to trial, he has the skills to argue on your behalf, make sure the prosecution meets its high burden, cross-examine witnesses, and present evidence and arguments to the jury.

Pennsylvania College and University Drug Policies

Here's the thing: as a student enrolled in a college or university in Pennsylvania, you face two hurdles if accused of violating drug laws. You not only must fight the charge in criminal court, but you may also face disciplinary proceedings at school. Because every school has anti-drug policies as a part of its student disciplinary code, you could find yourself facing expulsion from school even if your criminal case is resolved in your favor. Schools don't operate under the same set of rules as the Pennsylvania criminal court system, and as a result, a favorable outcome in your criminal case does not mean you'll have a similar result in your school disciplinary proceeding.

For example, Temple University's Drug Policy states as follows:

"The unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, possession, or use of controlled substances in any facility or work site of Temple University is strictly prohibited. Please see the university's Student Drug and Alcohol Policy."

The University of Pennsylvania has a similar policy:

"The University of Pennsylvania prohibits the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensation, sale, possession, or use of any drug by any of its students, or employees in its workplace, on its premises, or as part of any of its activities. This includes the unlawful sale, distribution, dispensation, possession, or use of any prescription drug. Use or possession of marijuana is prohibited on University premises, per federal law, which supersedes Pennsylvania laws governing the use and possession of marijuana and marijuana products on university campuses. This policy is intended to supplement and not limit the provisions of the University's Drug-Free Workplace policy."

Note that the University of Pennsylvania's policy specifically points out that marijuana is not allowed, citing its continuing illegality under federal law.

What this means to you as a student is that if your school is bringing disciplinary charges against you as a result of criminal drug charges you've faced, you need the advice of an experienced student rights defense attorney in addition to the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Our Criminal Law Team can help in both of these difficult situations; we have represented students across Pennsylvania and in other states who find themselves facing both criminal charges and school disciplinary proceedings and know that how you resolve one matter can affect the outcome of the other.

Pennsylvania Campus Drug Violation Disciplinary Procedures

Colleges and universities across Pennsylvania typically have detailed procedures that they follow for disciplining students accused of violating school policies. These procedures tend to be much less strict in terms of their evidentiary standards and protections for the accused student than are criminal proceedings, so it's vitally important to have an experienced attorney on your side who understands how these proceedings work and can make sure your rights are protected.

Penn State's Student Code of Conduct, for example, outlines a fairly elaborate set of procedures that can take place when the school receives a report of student misconduct. In addition to the considerable amount of discretion the school has in deciding whether to bring these proceedings, their consequences can include warnings, suspension, expulsion, relocation to different university housing, eviction from university housing, loss of extracurricular activity privileges, and "Other administrative measures, as appropriate."

There are specific time limits to various steps that, if not followed by the student, can result in disciplinary proceedings continuing without the student's participation. And while Penn State's procedures allow for an appeal, the appeal right is limited and can only be based on the record that was made during the disciplinary proceeding.

Penn State's procedures are not unusual; each college or university has its own ways of resolving student disciplinary matters, and while these are generally not designed specifically to create traps for unwary students, they can be complicated to follow and may result in unforeseen consequences for students to try to navigate them without help. Our Criminal Law Team is uniquely qualified to provide that help; we have advised hundreds of students involved in school disciplinary proceedings in Pennsylvania and other states and have significant additional experience as a criminal defense attorney that allows us to bring a perspective to drug-related disciplinary proceedings to help make sure that actions taken in one case do not adversely affect the student's position in the other.

Your Skilled Pennsylvania Student Defense Attorney

There are very few attorneys who have the breadth of experience that our Criminal Law Team has when it comes to representing both college students accused of school misconduct and defendants accused of drug-related crimes. If you are a college student charged with a drug-related crime, you are facing double trouble: criminal charges and possible school disciplinary proceedings. Resolving both of these as favorably as possible takes experience and skill – experience and skill that our Criminal Law Team has. We have represented hundreds of college students in situations much like yours in Pennsylvania and all over the country. You owe it to yourself, your future, and your family to have a skilled advocate on your side. Contact our Criminal Law Team at the LLF Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or go online for help.

Contact Us Today!

The LLF Law Firm Team has decades of experience successfully resolving clients' criminal charges in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania counties. If you are having any uncertainties about what the future may hold for you or a loved one, contact the LLF Law Firm today! Our Criminal Defense Team will go above and beyond the needs of any client, and will fight until the final bell rings.

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