It turns out that a raucous prank may have legal consequences. Not long ago, two college-age teenagers were charged with felony property destruction after flipping a car in Morgantown after West Virginia University’s football team upset Oklahoma State in September. The car flipping resulted in $6,000 in vehicle damage. If convicted, they could face a fine of $2,500 and up to 10 years in prison.
This is not the first serious destruction that has occurred in the wake of a football team’s victory: West Virginia University students set more than 40 fires after the team’s narrow victory over Texas last season, and in 2003, around 100 fires were set after the team’s victory over Virginia Tech. This time, the students allegedly involved were from West Virginia University and the University of South Carolina. They were finally arrested after police had spent an estimated 100 hours on the case, working from 40 separate tips. The tips were provided from other students at West Virginia University, who were outraged by the prank and did not want visitors to think that the ones involved represented the values of the university community.
While the West Virginia University student’s case works its way through the criminal system, the university will conduct its own disciplinary process, which moves at a faster rate. The university will investigate, and if the student is found to be not guilty, he will “walk away.” On the other hand, if he is found to be guilty of the prank, he can receive a punishment ranging from no formal discipline to expulsion. It is unclear whether West Virginia University’s findings could be used in the criminal case.
Clearly destruction of property is a serious matter, but as in any case where a crime has been committed, it is important to ensure that those arrested are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Every criminal suspect is entitled to be represented by competent counsel, as stated in the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution. Although most criminal cases do not go to trial, for those that do, the evidence standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt” — the highest standard possible. By contrast, the standard for conviction in civil cases is usually “clear and convincing evidence.” Because evidence can be obtained unlawfully and certain rights can go unmet (such as being interrogated by police without being read Miranda rights), it is important for any criminal suspect to have a West Virginia criminal defense attorney representing his or her best interests. A criminal defense attorney can seek to suppress evidence that was gotten through illegal means, so that it is not used to determine the suspect’s guilty or innocence. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney today.
The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia attorney, contact us today.