New Law Gives Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill College Students the Right to an Attorney; Raleigh Student Defense Lawyer Says Change Affords Students Opportunity to Defend

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North Carolina has a new law that gives every student facing non-academic disciplinary proceedings in a public college or university the right to have an attorney advise and represent them. Raleigh student defense attorney, Nicholas Clifford, said the change gives college students the ability to have professional help in defending the opportunities they seek in higher education.

“Considering how much there is to lose, it makes sense for students to have skilled representation."

The North Carolina General Assembly passed a law earlier this year, signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, that gives students in any of North Carolina's public universities the right to be represented by an attorney in any disciplinary proceeding other than one pertaining to matters of academic dishonesty. Nick Clifford, a Raleigh student defense lawyer, said the new law gives students a chance to have qualified representation when facing the loss of the opportunities higher education brings.

"Disciplinary proceedings can have a tremendous negative impact on students," Clifford said. "They could lose the chance to continue their education and, therefore, miss out on career opportunities. They may not be able to pursue further graduate education. With so much at stake, students deserve to have legal representation."

The law is part of Senate Bill 112, the "Create Jobs Through Regulatory Reform" Act. Among the several provisions of the law is one that adds a new section to Chapter 116 of North Carolina General Statutes, which regulates higher education. The new section gives students the right to be represented by either a licensed attorney or a non-attorney advocate in any disciplinary proceeding, unless there is a fully-student-staffed "Honor Court" or the allegation is one of academic dishonesty.

The law applies to all universities governed by Chapter 116, which includes North Carolina State University in Raleigh and the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill.

There are a variety of offenses that students may be accused of. Some constitute criminal offenses under North Carolina law. Others are actions that violate the student code of conduct set by the university. A student accused of any of these infractions may go through disciplinary proceedings.

The proceedings could have a dire effect on the student's future, Clifford said.

"A negative decision in one of these proceedings will leave a stain on that student's record that can haunt him or her when applying for graduate school, law school, medical school or any other postgraduate program and even affect employment opportunities," Clifford said. "In some scenarios, it could lead to that student being suspended or expelled on a permanent basis."

“Considering how much there is to lose, it makes sense for students to have skilled representation,” Clifford said. “While the disciplinary proceedings are not a court of law, they have rules and evidence must be presented, like in a criminal proceeding,” he said. “A student defense attorney understands these procedures and can provide more effective representation,” he said.

"In a criminal proceeding, everyone is ensured the right to representation because their liberty is at stake," Clifford said. "In a disciplinary hearing, your future is at stake. Having a lawyer represent you in such a proceeding makes sense."

Nicholas Clifford, of the Clifford Law Group, is a Raleigh criminal defense lawyer who represents UNC and NC State students in both disciplinary proceedings and in criminal matters, including DUI, drug charges and any other accusation.

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Nicholas Clifford
Clifford Law Group
since: 07/2013
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