It’s a Friday night and you need to let off some steam. You invite a couple of friends over, engage in a little beer pong, and then all of a sudden you hear it – the UPD knock. As you attempt to dispose of all 24 Natty Light cans, you already know: Your fate is sealed. Or is it?
College is a time for youthful indiscretions. We make mistakes, we learn from them. But through the journey, it is imperative that we educate ourselves about the consequences of our actions. It is no secret that the Student Judicial Services’ process is less than transparent, and D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department does not have the reputation for brushing off underage drinking violations. In times of trouble, you are often your only advocate.
According to D.C.’s Public Defender Service’s Web site, “whether one is arrested, charged, acquitted, convicted, or has an outstanding warrant, the courts and law enforcement are almost certain to keep and maintain a record of that incident.” This also includes minors who may have had their conviction set aside due to their age and cases that have ended in dismissal. This policy of record-keeping also holds true here at GW, where even a first-time offense is noted in an SJS file. Bottom line: When you get caught, there is a paper trail. But this does not mean your life is over, come time to apply to law school or that internship you’ve been lusting over for a year.
Under D.C. law, some convictions can be sealed if you meet certain requirements – like not being convicted of felonies and certain misdemeanors, and not having any other pending cases (except for a minor offense). Assuming you have met these requirements, the record could be sealed and you can have the freedom to move on with your life. Under this rule, your future graduate school or future employer would be none the wiser.
Here at GW, expungement is also a possibility. According to the Office of Student Judicial Services’ Web site, all disciplinary files are automatically expunged after three years from the date of violation or upon graduation – whichever comes first. This may be a sigh of relief for those wanting to apply to graduate programs, but for those who may need a clean record sooner, there is still hope. A year after the violation, students can submit a request, in writing, addressed to the associate dean of students explaining why they believe their record should be expunged early. For a successful early expungement, try not to engage in another incident that would receive judicial action as well, and work on becoming a more vital member of the GW community – either through participation in campus organizations, academic excellence, or community service. This is an extremely subjective process, but certainly worth the try if you find yourself in that position.
Now if you ever have to open the door to that heart-stopping knock, at least you will be armed with the facts. So take a deep breath, relax, and know that a run-in with UPD or MPD does not necessarily mean the end of a successful future.
The writer, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.
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