Copying someone else's work and passing it off as one's own can come with serious consequences. Some of these are personal, some are professional and some are legal. These consequences can vary depending upon how and where the plagiarism occurred.
Plagiarism for Students
Students in high school or college may plagiarize another's work either unintentionally or intentionally. Usually, the school sets the penalties for a student who is found to have plagiarized their work. In cases where the student plagiarized unintentionally through accident or misunderstanding, then the consequences may be largely up to the teacher. Perhaps the student will receive no credit for the assignment or will be warned about further consequences should the tendency to plagiarize continue.
When the plagiarism appears to be intentional, there may be a number of consequences. These include failing the assignment and having to redo it. Some students may not be able to recover their grade or may automatically fail a course. Some academic institutions will suspend a student for plagiarizing. In extreme cases where the student commits plagiarism on several occasions, they may be dismissed from the school.
Plagiarism for the Professional
When a professional commits plagiarism, the stakes are even higher. Notoriety as a plagiarist can effectively end a career. The plagiarist may be asked to leave their job or be fired. When this happens, it can be extremely difficult for the individual to find employment in the same field. Public figures may receive the heaviest consequences to their reputation, and may have to retire from public life.
Plagiarism that is egregious enough may also be subject to legal action. When a citation to source material is omitted, then copyright laws have been violated. The original author of the work that was plagiarized may have grounds to file a civil suit. Some of these lawsuits are highly publicized, which can cause further damage to the plagiarist's reputation. Moreover, the defendant may be liable for considerable monetary damages that must be paid to the plaintiff.
Considering the seriousness of the consequences, it's important to avoid plagiarism at all costs. Doing so requires vigilance on the part of the writer. This may mean double checking that all sources are properly cited within a piece. While this may consume a great deal of time, it is a worthwhile endeavor to avoid the academic, legal and professional consequences that follow an accusation of plagiarism.