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Falsely accused of cheating on university final exam. Can I fight this successfully? What should I do?

Los Angeles, CA |

My professor accused me of accessing online course materials (there are logs in my name at different times) during the exam. However, I know that I did not touch any electronic device during that time. I suspect that my smartphone may have refreshed a few pages that were open previously while I was studying beforehand. The university only allows an advocate affiliated with the school to speak at the hearing. An outside lawyer would be unable to. Someone told me that I should look for a tech expert that can vouch for me and say that the above situation is possible, and is more likely than not to have happened. He also said that I should build a defense around the fact that I have always been an A's and B's student with no reason to cheat. Are there ways I can pursue this after the hearing?

I haven't had a hearing scheduled, yet. Where can I find a tech expert for what I need? For example, if it was an iPhone, would I go to an Apple store? I offered to allow the school to investigate my phone through an expert of their choosing, etc, but I was refused.

Attorney Answers 3


  1. You should look for a lawyer who is an alumni of your university. You should also hire a technology expert, I recommend that you contact Californensics in Sacramento, for assistance. They are reputable experts in technology and will be credible experts to explain how and what happened.

    If the hearing goes badly for you, you may not have any appeal rights and they may place a notation on your transcript if they discipline you or expel you. You may wish to consult an educational attorney. There are a number of very competent attorneys here on Avvo, use the find an attorney tab.

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  2. Most colleges have a legal aid clinic. I know in our area Denver University , Colorado University, and CSU University all do and offer this as a free service to the students (part of their tuition). If they feel that there is a conflict, then you can be referred to outside counsel. This will be handled administratively through an Honor Code committee (I am handling one right now at CU) and they will have the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence that you cheated.

    The information provided in this answer does not create an attorney-client relationship and is not considered to be legal advice.


  3. There is comprehensive info here:
    HARD FACTS FOR STUDENTS RE CHEATING, PLAGIARISM, AND OTHER ACADEMIC INTEGRITY VIOLATIONS
    http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/hard-facts-for-students-re-cheating-plagiarism-and-other-academic-integrity-violations

    The much better defense posture and strategy is to offer to submit the phone to a forensic tech expert/firm of the school's choosing. If you go ahead and hire one, the school is not likely to accept your paid selected expert as truly independent and objective.

    It is very unlikely that you have any recourse after the school's internal admin process. And a notation on your transcript would be the least of it. You may be facing expulsion. Talk to a local attorney who is involved with and well-respected by the school -- alum, booster, civic leader, etc.

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