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College students, DUI charges and university conduct codes

Your child goes off to college in Pennsylvania, and you hope you have done enough to show them how to avoid any serious trouble. You know the reputation that college has, and you do worry about your child's future.

Then you get a phone call: Police arrested your child on suspicion of driving under the influence. He or she was on the way home from a social gathering at around 2 in the morning when police pulled the car over.

You already understand a lot of the potential ramifications. Your child may have to spend time behind bars, pay fines and go through the legal system. It's a serious charge -- there's no doubt about that.

But you are also thinking of the big picture. Even after your child gets through all of this, is that DUI going to impact them at college? Are there any collateral issues you should worry about?

The code of conduct

The first place you and your child need to look is at the university's code of conduct. This is different for every institution. Legally speaking, the university does not have to take any action to punish the child. However, if the code of conduct addresses DUI charges, the school may add on ramifications that go beyond the legal ones.

Losing a scholarship

For example, perhaps the code of conduct says that students on scholarship must abide by the rules or lose their scholarships. A conviction is grounds to take it away. Whether that is an academic scholarship or an athletic scholarship, the school could then pull the funding immediately.

This does not mean your child cannot attend the university any longer. But it costs a lot more.

Losing housing

If your child lives in the dorms or other types of on-campus housing, the code of conduct may also allow the officials to take that housing away. They may pursue this if the incident happened on school grounds. Again, your child can still attend the university, but they now have to find another place to live.

Getting expelled

The most severe ramification, of course, is if the school just decides to expel your child entirely. When this happens, the child loses housing, scholarships and enrollment in classes. For all intents and purposes, their time at the school is over.

This is obviously a huge setback. Even if your child can get into another college -- not always a guarantee -- it may take extra semesters or years to finish. It may cost more money. The child may have to enroll in a less prestigious school, making the degree worth less in the job market.

Your options

When you get that phone call, you need to know all of your legal options. Remember the true impact of a conviction and find out what you can do.

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