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Can a university charge you four months later?

Q: I attend a college and one of four roommates made a complaint about the smell of marijuana in the living room. I am a user and so is another roommate. The campus cops barge in and only check our bathroom (there are 2) and they smelled it so charged us with possession and paraphernalia. But, they never conducted a search like they said they would so there isn’t really any solid evidence besides the smell and bag being on the fire alarm. We were told we would receive a letter in 72 hours if we were charged and we did not receive anything until now February, four months later. What can I do to go about this? (Moon Township, PA)

A:  It sounds like you are over 18 and have been charged with two misdemeanors. Yes, they can take four months to charge you. If you do not have your charges handled correctly, this event can ruin your life. I would invest in an attorney. He or she can determine if you have a probable cause or possession defense, and if not, if there is a diversionary program available to you which can prevent you from having a record.

What are the rules governing a police officer questioning minors?

Q: Recently, a police officer was in my neighborhood investigating an incident. I was next door speaking to a neighbor, and my 6 year-old let the officer into my home. I came home approximately 7 minutes later and he was questioning my 6 and 9 yr old children about a poaching incident in our neighborhood. Obviously, they could not have committed the crime at such young ages. When I returned and asked him why he was questioning my children without my presence, he informed me that he was just seeking answers. Later that day, Children services came to my home because the officer had filed child endangerment charges. I was less than 100 feet away, my 9 yr old has a cell phone with which to call me, and child services dismissed his concerns about the children.

A: I would need more information. The way you describe it, or suspect, is that the police gathered evidence illegally about you and called CYF to make it appear that there questioning of the children had a legal basis. It doesn’t sound like a strong case of Endangering Welfare of Children, but the standard to arrest you is not demanding. If arrested for EWOC, you may have a good defense, based on your information. If you are arrested for something else, like poaching, which was based on the evidence the police obtained from your children, your attorney may have grounds to suppress the evidence as illegally obtained, but that is always an uphill battle.