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At Student Legal Services, we help students with a variety of personal criminal and civil legal issues. We are also able to help with some immigration matters.

As there is already an amazing ecosystem in State College for entrepreneurs, we only help students with personal legal needs, not business legal needs. We recommend starting at the Small Business Development Center to learn about the available resources.

Student Legal Services strives to provide you with relevant, up to date legal information to help you learn more about an area of law. No legal advice is provided on this website. Every case is different. For advice about your specific situation, please complete our intake form to request an appointment with an attorney.


We assist students with many summary citations, traffic tickets, and first-offense DUI and marijuana charges. The ideal situation is never getting in trouble in the first place, so here are some common myths that seem to trip up students every year:

Party Myths

Myth: I won't get caught

Guess what? We see hundreds of students every year who thought the same thing. Underage drinking, public drunkenness, drug use, fighting: break the rules and you risk getting caught.

Myth: A great place to smoke marijuana is my dorm room/the Arboretum/the fields

Students get caught. All. The. Time.

Myth: What happens in Happy Valley stays in Happy Valley

Nope. That's Vegas. Being convicted of any crime can hurt your chances of finding a job after graduation or pursuing a graduate or professional degree. Employers are increasingly relying on background checks on prospective employees. With some crimes, you risk jail time or expulsion.

Myth: PSU Police aren't real cops

University police in Pennsylvania have the same powers, authority, and responsibilities as municipal police officers. Short answer: They can arrest you.

Myth: I was just holding the beer/joint/pipe for my friend.

Under the law, if you are holding an illegal item, or are keeping it in your room or apartment, you are in possession. Possession is not the same as ownership, but just as illegal.

Myth: You have to be over 21 to get in trouble for furnishing.

If you furnish alcohol to minors, you risk jail, fines, and a record. You can get busted for this even if you are under 21 too.

Myth: Fake IDs are no big deal.

Using false identification or providing a fake name to a police officer is a misdemeanor. It can mean jail time, license suspension, a record, and big fines.

Myth: It's a summary citation. I can ignore this.

You have 10 days from the date the citation was issued to enter a plea. If you fail to respond, a warrant can be issued for your arrest.

Myth: I was drunk. I didn't know what I was doing.

In Pennsylvania, voluntary intoxication is never a defense to a crime. You are responsible for everything you do when you are drunk.

Myth: There is no help once you are caught.

There are often more choices than just 'guilty' or 'not guilty,' especially for first offenses. At Student Legal Services, if we can't provide advice or representation in a matter, we can still provide referrals to help you connect with an attorney who can review your options.

If you're charged with a criminal offense, talk to a lawyer before entering a plea. There can be penalties or effects of a criminal conviction beyond the fine and costs; lawyers call these 'collateral consequences.'

Collateral Consequences 

Employment and Occupational Licensing

Employers are increasingly requiring background checks. A criminal history can impact a student's ability to obtain internships and employment. Pennsylvania's Criminal History Records and Information Act provides some protection against adverse hiring decisions for minor crimes, and crimes not related to the ability to do the job, but even these protections do not apply to professional licensing and may be superceded by federal laws.

The most common crimes we see that impact students' future employment are honesty crimes (fake ID, retail theft, burglary, etc.), crimes of violence (disorderly conduct engage in fighting, harassment, assault, etc.), crimes against minors, drug crimes, and rioting and failure to disburse crimes.

Financial Aid

A conviction for any offense under any federal or state law involving the possession or sale of a controlled substance can make a student ineligible for federal or state financial aid. This can include grants, loans and work-study. Depending on whether it is a first, second, or third offense, the period of ineligibility can range from one year to indefinitely.

Driver's License

Violation of Pennsylvania laws can result in the suspension or revocation of your driver's license. This includes:

  • Minor's law violations including carrying false identification, possession, consumption, or transportation of alcohol.
  • Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Intoxicated
  • Certain drug-related offenses
  • Driving on a suspended license
  • Unpaid traffic violations
  • Lapsed vehicle insurance (results in revocation of vehicle registration)

Under the Landlord-Tenant Act, a landlord can evict a tenant convicted of drug-related offenses, including convictions for the sale, manufacture, or distribution of illegal drugs.

Firearm Restriction

The privilege of possessing a firearm can be lost after conviction of certain offenses under state or federal law.

Travel outside the United States

Other countries may consider an individual's criminal record when determining admissibility. The Foreign Worker Canada immigration law firm provides a great overview of the crimes that make individuals inadmissible to Canada, and how, when or if that admissibility can be overcome.


A felony conviction bars service in the armed forces unless an exception is made. Military pensions may not be paid if incarceration in a local, state, or federal penal institution is the result of a misdemeanor or felony offense.

Students in ROTC programs can face discipline, including disenrollment and loss of scholarship for criminal conduct.

Loss of Property

Under the Food and Drug Act, tangible and intangible personal property is subject to forfeiture. This can include computers, cars, real estate, cash, etc.


While the majority of our civil cases are about landlord-tenant matters, we do help students with many other civil matters including uncontested family law matters, simple estate documents, and name changes.

A great free resource on civil law is This website gathers information, videos, and templates from all of the legal service providers in Pennsylvania and puts them on this free, searchable website.

Check out these links for more specific information about landlord-tenant law, name changes and income tax help.


Immigration law is a rapidly changing field. The Penn State Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic is providing up to date information on Immigration after the Election, and Global Penn State maintains a page highlighting International Student Alerts.

Check out the International Students link for a primer on common questions about U.S. law and driving in the U.S. for international students.

Reviewed: November 3, 2017