College is a time of academic and personal growth, but it is also a period when young adults may encounter situations that can lead to criminal accusations. The National Center for Education Statistics revealed there were 27,300 crime reports on college campuses in 2019.
As you head back to school this fall, being proactive and informed about how to protect yourself legally can make a significant difference in your college experience. Luckily, there are multiple steps you can take to safeguard against potential criminal charges.
Know the law
One of the first steps to protect yourself is understanding local and state laws. Familiarize yourself with the legal drinking age, drug regulations and other relevant laws that pertain to your college town or city.
In all aspects of personal relationships, practice clear and enthusiastic consent. Understand the boundaries and always respect others’ choices.
Maintain academic integrity
Uphold academic honesty by avoiding plagiarism, cheating on exams and abiding by your school’s rules. These actions can lead to academic penalties and even criminal charges in some cases.
Practice cyber etiquette
Be cautious online and avoid cyberbullying, harassment or any illegal activities on the internet. Use strong passwords, secure your personal information and never engage in hacking or cybercrimes.
If you attend parties, be mindful of your surroundings. Avoid situations where illegal activities are taking place, and leave any gathering that becomes unruly or potentially dangerous. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so responsibly only if you are of the legal drinking age. Avoid excessive drinking, which can lead to unruly behavior and potentially criminal charges like public intoxication or disorderly conduct.
Avoid unlawful protests
While the right to protest is fundamental, engaging in unlawful protests or acts of vandalism can result in criminal charges. If you choose to participate in demonstrations, do so peacefully and within the bounds of the law.
Keep records of important communications and interactions, especially if they pertain to potential legal matters. This documentation can serve as evidence in your favor if needed.
Returning to school in the fall is a great time to have fun, but it is essential to remain vigilant and not put yourself in situations that could lead to legal issues. Your best protection against a criminal record is avoiding situations that could spell trouble and carefully documenting your side of the story.