So yesterday I attended another Texas A&M student disciplinary hearing. My client was charged with the theft of a “bait bicycle.” These bikes are strategically placed all around campus and are equipped with GPS tracking. The University police have someone watching the “radar” 24/7 so they can immediately jump to their feet and execute their next misdemeanor takedown once a bike starts to move. My client was on the receiving end of the latest UPD bait bike takedown last week. He was charged with violating Section 24.4.4 of the Texas A&M Student Conduct Code prohibiting THEFT/VANDALISM as follows: The “Unauthorized removal or stealing and/or attempted removal or stealing of property of a member of the University community or other personal or public property, on or off campus.”
When my client was stopped he was candid and immediately explained to police the bike was not his. He told the officer he’d been late for class and had borrowed the bike to make class on time. When the police arrested him, he was on his way back to replace the bike where he’d found it . . . about 2 hours after the bike was first noticed “on the move.” My client’s parking pass and class schedule corroborated his story. The GPS tracking further corroborated it. However, the officer’s only concern at the time was whether my client knew what “stealing” was. Typical!
We attended the Texas A&M student disciplinary hearing yesterday to present our defense. We explained to the hearing officer what happened. We showed her our parking pass, our class schedule, and a map of how far we had to run to make class on time. We explained how we immediately told the officer the bike belonged to someone else, but we had simply borrowed it. We explained we were in the process of returning the bicycle. We showed her the GPS data corroborated our story. She exclaimed: “I believe you. I don’t think you intended to steal the bike.”
Once the hearing officer comforted my client with her reassurance, she proceeded to find him responsible (guilty) for theft. She then placed him on probation for a semester. I asked her how she could find him responsible for theft? I thought you said you believed him? Doesn’t this go down in his permanent educational record? Is he now a documented thief? It appears so.
And anybody wonders why we’re mad as hell over here?
Stephen Gustitis is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan-College Station. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a husband, father, and retired amateur bicycle racer.