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The years spent in college are often some of the most exciting, busy, and fun times in a person’s young life. With these new experiences can sometimes come legal trouble if you are not careful. The best thing you can do for yourself when preparing to begin your college career is educate yourself on some of the major violations college students run into, how to avoid them, and what these mistakes may cost you in the long run.

There are a few different categories to consider when educating yourself about common legal issues college students may face. The majority of legal issues college students face include:

  • Alcohol offenses

  • Traffic tickets

  • Local state laws

  • Renting agreements

Legal Issues Involving Alcohol

For obvious reasons, running into legal trouble relating to the use of alcohol in college is one of the most common issues students deal with during their time at school. The best way to prevent any unwanted interference with the law is to drink responsibly and be aware of some of the common charges you may face as they pertain to alcohol. This will allow you to be as safe and responsible as possible. 

Some common laws college students often violate are:

  • Open container

  • Driving Under the Influence

  • Minor in Possession

  • Public Intoxication 

As a general rule of thumb, most places consider it illegal to carry alcohol in public with an open lid. Though there are a few exceptions that have legal, open carry laws, it is always a good idea to keep your alcohol closed and concealed in public spaces to avoid a run in with the law. If you choose to drink, make sure you have made plans for getting home or to a secondary location. You should never choose to drive after drinking. Having a blood alcohol content of .08% or more will result in a DUI which is a very serious offense.

If you are under the age of 21 and get caught with alcohol in your hand or in your general vicinity - even if it is not yours - you could be given a citation for minor in possession. Public intoxication is another major offense you need to be aware of and consider when drinking. If you are inebriated in a public area, a police officer has the ability to arrest you for public intoxication. This charge is extremely serious and will require you to attend court to discuss a potential punishment for your actions. 

Traffic Tickets

Traffic violations can be a potential issue anywhere you go. It is best to be prepared for what to do if you receive a traffic ticket during your time in college. Always be aware of and abide by the speed limit. Try making a mental note that speeds may be lower than normal on roads surrounding your campus. Wearing your seatbelt every time you get into a car is the best way to ensure personal safety as well as prevent unnecessary fines. A lack of public parking is a big issue for college students that can often make parking tickets a common occurrence. Make it a point to research the city you attend school in and their local laws on parking violations, as many will increase the fine for each violation.

When you receive a traffic ticket, you have a few options on how to go about dealing with it from paying the fine on time, hiring an attorney, or talking to the court to requesting permission to attend driving school. The best way to address any situation involving the law is to do thorough research and talk to an expert.

Local Laws/Out of State Students

If you are attending school outside of your home state, it is imperative that you are informed on the local laws your university and the surrounding areas abide by. These may differ from what you are used to. Knowing the local law will help you avoid any unwanted legal encounters. 

Many out-of-state students attempt to earn residency in the state they attend school as a means to relieve stress related to out-of-state tuition. However, it is always best to do your research before embarking on this journey because it can be a lot of effort, and residency laws differ from state to state. Ultimately, this will affect multiple aspects of your life including state and federal taxes and voting regulations. It is important to know how to proceed so that you do not unintentionally break a law. 

Renting Agreements

When looking for a place to live, you will most likely end up signing a short-term lease for anywhere from 6 months to 1 year. Make sure to read and comprehend all of the terms of your lease to avoid any legal trouble down the road. It is also important that you are aware of the circumstances that would allow you to break your lease. A lease is a legally binding contract, so consider consulting a legal professional before you sign any documents that you are not fully informed on. 

One of the things that makes college such a unique experience is that you will probably find yourself having to share your living space. When entering into a situation like this, it is important to anticipate any potential issues that may arise in order to be fully prepared. 

Living with roommates can sometimes be a tricky situation to navigate. Before you begin your time living together, make sure to have discussions with your roommates and get any agreements you make in writing. Whether it be addressing who gets to take the furniture when the lease is complete or even what responsibilities belong to each of the roommates, make sure that these are understood unanimously. 

Consequences For Illegal Actions

As a college student, there are numerous reasons to be well-informed about the consequences of breaking the law. College is a time of preparation for your goals, and a lot of hard work goes into that. One misstep can have lasting consequences on your future if you are not careful. Staying informed will build responsibility and allow you to avoid any of these consequences:

  • Academic suspension

  • Campus housing suspension

  • Delayed graduation

  • Federal student aid revoked

  • Grad school implications

  • Future job implications

How Barfoot & Schoettker Can Help

In the event you do find yourself in legal trouble, the best thing you can do is talk to a good attorney that wants to fight for you and is well versed in all kinds of legal issues. Barfoot & Schoettker’s experts are experienced in various different types of legal issues and are willing to advise you in the best way possible. Contact us for a free consultation today to determine how we can help you with your legal trouble. 


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