North Carolina College Students Drug Arrest Draws Scrutiny

A UNC student's recent arrest on multiple drug-related charges puts a spotlight on the importance of a quick legal response to minimize damage to a young person's record and reputation. The 21-year-old junior and fraternity member was arrested in early November in Wilmington along with a non-student friend for marijuana and cocaine possession and intent to sell.

The criminal justice implications of such an arrest are harsh enough: immediate incarceration, formal criminal charges and the potential for a felony record. Regardless of how high your grades might be or how involved you may be in your community, your past criminal record may follow you unless you take active steps to have it expunged.

Given the nature of the crime, other UNC students criticized the front page coverage this story received in the student paper, which included publication of mug shots. But the harm of notoriety can extend beyond the individual by putting organizations with which he is affiliated on the defensive. "I realize this brings negative light, but this is an individual thing with one person," the president of the Interfraternity Council told The Daily Tar Heel. "This is not a reflection of the fraternity system and what it has done."


A lawyer's involvement in the process as soon as possible can make a considerable difference in the outcome. One factor is immediately apparent in the coverage of the student's arrest and release from jail: bond was initially set at $300,000, but reduced to $25,000 at his first court appearance with his attorney. An experienced and effective attorney can give advice, not only in regards to the criminal charges themselves, but also in how to handle the media and put forth mitigating facts that can sometimes rebut unfair press coverage.

The high bond in this case shows just how seriously authorities treat drug charges involving trafficking or manufacture. But early intervention in the process can help a potential defendant seek dismissal of charges for a variety of reasons, including identification mistakes, violations of a suspect's constitutional rights and insufficient evidence. By consulting with a drug crimes attorney, a potential suspect can explore strategies to avoid prosecution and the long-term consequences of a conviction.