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Will My Parents Find Out If I Get Caught Drinking or Breaking the Law at School? 

Law Offices of Andrew C. Janecki July 5, 2024

Teenagers drinking beer If you are caught drinking underage or breaking the law at school, one of the common concerns is whether your parents will be informed about the incident. The answer depends on several factors, including your age, the nature of the offense, and the specific policies of your college. 

As an attorney in California, I’m here to unravel this concern and offer insight on what you can do if you find yourself in such a situation. Based in Santa Cruz, I help clients with student conduct issues throughout Palo Alto, San Jose, San Francisco, and Berkeley, California. 

Common Offenses on College Campuses 

Some of the most common offenses on college campuses include:  

  • Underage drinking: Underage drinking involves the possession or consumption of alcohol by individuals under the age of 21.  

  • Sexual assault or harassment: Sexual assault involves any non-consensual sexual act, while harassment includes unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile environment.  

  • Bullying or hazing: Bullying involves repeated aggressive behavior intended to hurt another individual physically or emotionally. Hazing refers to initiation rituals that endanger physical or mental health.  

  • Drug offenses: Drug offenses encompass the possession, distribution, or use of illegal substances.  

  • Theft or burglary: Theft refers to the unlawful taking of another person's property, while burglary involves entering a building with the intent to commit theft or any felony. 

Factors Determining Parental Notification When a Student is Caught Breaking the Law 

Whether or not your parents are notified largely depends on the nature of the offense and your age. Some of the factors to take into consideration that may affect whether your parents will be notified of your offense include:  

Age Considerations 

If you are a minor (under 18), law enforcement or the school administration will notify your parents or guardians. This is because minors are under the legal responsibility of their parents. However, if you are 18 or older, you are considered an adult in the eyes of the law, and your parents do not have to be informed unless you give consent. 

Nature of the Offense 

Certain serious offenses, such as drug possession, hazing, or sexual assault, may result in mandatory reporting to your parents regardless of your age. These cases often involve severe legal consequences and potential threats to campus safety, prompting immediate notifications. 

College Policies 

Each college has its own set of rules regarding parental notification. Some institutions have policies requiring parental notification for certain behavior violations, especially those involving safety or health risks. It’s important to review your college’s student handbook or code of conduct to understand their specific policies. 

Privacy Laws 

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protects the privacy of student education records. Under FERPA, colleges cannot disclose information from your educational records, including disciplinary actions, without your consent if you are over 18. There are exceptions, however, such as health and safety emergencies or if the information is subpoenaed by law enforcement.    

Whether or not your parents are informed, serious consequences come from breaking the law as a student. While parents will continue to love and support their children despite their mistakes, the legal system is less forgiving.  

Consequences of Common Student Crimes in California

You could face academic, legal, and personal consequences if caught breaking the law. Academic institutions may impose penalties such as suspension or expulsion. Legally, you may face fines, community service, or even jail time, depending on the severity of the offense. On a personal level, these incidents can impact your future opportunities and relationships. 

Sexual Assault or Harassment 

In California, sexual assault can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment and mandatory registration as a sex offender. Harassment can lead to disciplinary actions by the college, civil lawsuits, and potential criminal charges. 

Underage Drinking 

Minors caught with alcohol can face fines up to $250 for a first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses, along with community service requirements. Additionally, there may be academic repercussions and parental notification. 

Theft or Burglary 

Depending on the value of the stolen property, theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. Burglary charges are more severe and can lead to significant jail time. Both crimes can also result in academic penalties, such as suspension or expulsion. 

Bullying or Hazing 

Hazing can result in misdemeanor charges, leading to up to one year in jail and/or fines. Severe cases involving injury can escalate to felony charges. Bullying can lead to disciplinary action by the college and potential civil liability. 

Drug Crimes 

Penalties for drug possession vary based on the substance and quantity. Minor marijuana possession (less than one ounce) can result in a fine, while possession of other controlled substances can lead to misdemeanor or felony charges, with potential jail time and heavy fines. 

Your Rights When Facing Charges 

When facing criminal charges, it's important to know your rights. In California, you have the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney, and the right to a fair trial. Knowing these rights can help you navigate the legal system more effectively and protect yourself from unjust treatment. 

Being proactive and informed is key to protecting your future. If you find yourself in trouble, seek legal advice immediately. Taking the right steps early on can mitigate the long-term impact of your actions. 

Seeking Legal Guidance 

If you do find yourself entangled in legal issues, consulting with a local criminal defense attorney can make a significant difference. A criminal defense attorney can provide you with the knowledge needed to handle your case effectively. I can guide you through the legal process, help you understand your options, and work towards the best possible outcome for your situation. 

The Law Offices of Andrew C. Janecki

With extensive experience in handling cases related to underage drinking, Title IX, and other criminal offenses, I offer personalized attention and a commitment to justice. My firm serves clients in Santa Cruz and throughout Palo Alto, San Jose, San Francisco, and Berkeley, providing access to quality legal support no matter where you are in California.  

What to Expect in a Consultation 

During a consultation with me, you can expect straightforward advice and well-informed guidance. I will listen to your concerns, explain the legal implications of your situation, and outline potential strategies for your defense. This initial consultation is crucial to resolving your legal issues and moving forward confidently. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Student Conduct Issues in California

What should I do if I’m caught drinking underage at a campus event? 

Remain calm and cooperative with campus security or local law enforcement. Do not provide false information or try to flee the scene. Contacting a student defense attorney as soon as possible is advisable to understand your rights and prepare for any legal proceedings that may follow. 

Can I be expelled from school for underage drinking? 

While expulsion is generally reserved for more severe offenses, underage drinking can lead to disciplinary actions such as probation, suspension, or mandatory counseling sessions. Each institution has its own set of policies, so familiarizing yourself with your school's code of conduct can help you avoid severe disciplinary actions.  

How can a student defense attorney help me? 

A student defense attorney can provide legal advice, represent you in hearings, and work to minimize the impact of the charges on your academic and personal life. Their role includes explaining the legal process, negotiating with prosecutors, and protecting your rights throughout the ordeal. 

Reach Out for Legal Support in Student Conduct Issues

While the prospect of getting caught for underage drinking or breaking the law at school can be stressful, it's important to approach the situation with knowledge and confidence. Understanding the law, knowing your rights, and seeking legal guidance when needed can make all the difference. Making informed decisions now can protect your future. 

If you find yourself needing legal advice or support, don't hesitate to contact me. Whether you're in Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, San Jose, San Francisco, or Berkeley, I am here to help you through your legal challenges with professionalism and dedication. 

Stay informed, stay safe, and remember that help is always available when you need it.