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Top 5 Legal Pitfalls for College Students

By Deanne Katz, Esq. | Last updated on

College students don't often think about the legal consequences of their actions until it's too late and that can lead to trouble. This fall get a jumpstart on recognizing situations where things are likely to go wrong.

No, the issue isn't with studying too much or doing too well in class. It's that other part of college life where people start having too much fun that things go wrong.

If you have a college student (or you are one) make sure to know the top 5 situations that can result in legal trouble.

  1. Leases and Cohabitation. Most college students live in an off-campus apartment for at least one year during college and that can mean trouble. A lease is a legally binding document so take the time to read it. It doesn't hurt to make a cohabitation agreement with your roommates too.

  2. Alcohol. The majority of college students cannot legally drink although you wouldn't know it from a college party. Giving drinks to someone underage is also not legal and you can get in serious trouble for it. Same goes for being drunk in public or having an open container even if it's on campus. If you are going to drink make sure you have a designated driver, for everyone's sake.

  3. Parties. This goes hand-in-hand with alcohol but parties bring their own legal liability. For college students living off-campus it's likely that not all your neighbors appreciate the Saturday night rager. Complaints of noise violations can bring police to your door and cause lots of trouble for the party organizers. If the neighbors ask you to turn it down, turn it down.

  4. Online Issues. What you say online is public information even if you have your Facebook privacy settings all set up.  Social media comments can be found and it can get you in trouble. Nasty posts about your job can get you fired but violent or bullying tweets could land you in court. Watch what you say and keep mean comments off the Internet.

  5. Getting Physical. This category covers a multitude of sins that are more common in college communities including fighting, hazing, and sexual assault. When things get heated keep your hands to yourself and never force anyone to take part in activities they don't want to do. It's also good to keep in mind that being drunk is not the same as giving consent. Never take advantage of people who have had too much.

Being a college student isn't all fun and games but it comes pretty close. Just remember that 18 is old enough for serious legal trouble.

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