Skip to main content

Three steps you should take if your child is accused of plagiarism

By March 23, 2016September 25th, 2023No Comments

Step One: Identify who is making the allegation. Usually the accuser will be a professor, fellow student, or administrator. Accusations of plagiarism by professors must be handled in a different manner than those brought forth by other students or school administrators. Depending on whether a formal charge has been brought against the student, contact with the professor who made the accusation is prohibited and any contact could result in an additional violation of the university’s code of conduct.

Step Two: Find out if a formal charge has been initiated. Your child will be notified by a university administrator if a formal charge has been initiated. If no such notice has been given then there may be a short window of time to resolve the matter directly and informally with the accusing professor. An informal resolution will prevent the formal disciplinary process from being triggered which can be incredibly stressful for your child and may result in a permanent notation reflecting academic dishonesty on your child’s transcript.

Step Three: Contact an experienced student defense attorney. Plagiarism is considered a severe honor code violation, which usually gives rise to a university disciplinary proceeding. Like most conduct code violations, plagiarism charges against your child can lead to loss of housing or scholarship, suspension, or expulsion, as well as affecting your child’s performance in that particular class. If you believe your child’s academic record or student rights are in jeopardy due to pending plagiarism charges, it is important to contact a student defense attorney to help your child navigate their university disciplinary hearings or negotiate an informal resolution when possible and appropriate.

An experienced student defense attorney understands that each case is unique and will require a tailored approach. For example, universities often define plagiarism differently. Some universities define the act of plagiarism as an “intentional” act while others do not. As a result carelessness and honest mistakes could potentially result in very serious sanctions.  Additionally, an experienced student defense attorney knows how to properly interpret the evidence relied upon by the university. For example, professors often misinterpret data percentages produced by plagiarism software checker programs like and incorrectly conclude instances of plagiarism.  An experienced student defense attorney will be able to review all the evidence against your child and form a strong defense.

These materials have been prepared by Cohen Seglias for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

Shan Wu

Author Shan Wu

Shan’s professional and personal background gives him a unique understanding of academic institutions and the criminal justice system. A former federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., he is at home in D.C. Courts and very familiar with all of the Washington, D.C. law enforcement agencies, especially the Metropolitan Police Department. His parents were university professors so he grew up in a university environment. He understands the mindset of academic institutions. As a prosecutor, he supervised in the misdemeanor crime section. This is the section of the Washington, D.C. prosecutor’s office that handles most college student cases. His understanding of charging decisions and how judges view these cases is invaluable to his student clients and their families. Shan served as a federal prosecutor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia for over ten years. During his tenure there, now Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. appointed him to supervisory positions in the Misdemeanor Trial Section and also in a police corruption task force. His outstanding legal work in the government was recognized through numerous Special Achievement Awards from the Justice Department as well as awards conveyed by law enforcement agencies and community groups. From 1999-2000, Shan served as Counsel to Attorney General Janet Reno, advising her on criminal and civil investigations, E-Gov, E-Commerce (electronic signatures, internet gambling, internet telephony, privacy & public access issues in electronic court filings), congressional oversight, and legislative review. His responsibilities included serving as liaison to the FBI, DEA, Criminal Division, Executive Office of United States Attorneys, National Institute of Justice, and White House Counsel’s Office. Shan serves on the D.C. Bar Association’s Hearing Committee of the Board on Professional Responsibility and is a past president of the Asian Pacific American Bar Association for the Greater Washington, D.C. area. He is a 1988 graduate of Georgetown University Law Center, where he graduated Order of the Barristers, edited two law reviews, and was Co-Director of the Moot Court Program. He holds a B.A. in English Literature from Vassar College as well as a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Following law school, he clerked for the late Hon. Jerry Buchmeyer, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, and the late Eugene Wright, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and Connecticut.

More posts by Shan Wu
Skip to content