Sending your son or daughter off to college is a very emotionally complex event. Your child will feel a mix of excitement and anxiety, and will undoubtedly feel a bit uncertain. As a parent, you will feel pride, fear, a bit of disbelief, and likely some denial. Regardless of where you or your child are on the emotional spectrum, it is critical that you both have an understanding of what lies ahead for them. This is particularly true of the legal consequences that can result from their actions or choices.
With a few exceptions, most children beginning college are at least eighteen years of age. Legally this means that they are no longer considered minors. It is possible that while in high school they may have had friends who made poor choices and found themselves dealing with legal ramifications. For the most part, these ramifications were likely handled with a bit of a gentler touch from a judge. The opportunity to have things expunged from their record, provided that they did not get into any more trouble before their eighteenth birthday, was a likely option presented to many minors.
Upon turning eighteen, however, the stakes are significantly raised. There are no longer as many opportunities for things to be dealt with as delicately as they previously were. Your son or daughter needs to know that there are potentially serious consequences for them as they head off to school.
Drugs, and especially alcohol, are plentifully available at college parties. Your son or daughter may find themselves at an event where alcohol is being served without care or concern for the age of the people consuming it. If the police were to arrive and find your eighteen-year-old child consuming alcohol, they can be cited for underage consumption. Depending on how much they have had to drink, and the location in which they are confronted by police, they may also be charged with public intoxication. Both of these offenses could lead to your child being arrested and spending an evening in jail. Several factors including whether or not this is your child’s first offense, the leniency of the judge, or even how your child behaved during the encounter may determine whether or not the arrest remains a part of their permanent record. Drugs, on the other hand, are much more likely to result in stiff consequences regardless of the circumstances.
Another subject to address with your child is hazing. Many college students go through the process of rushing a sorority or fraternity and pledging to join a particular organization. During the pledge period, your child is expected to “earn” his or her way into the group. Unfortunately, hazing has become synonymous with the pledging process. Your child needs to understand that they do not have to allow themselves to be subjected to cruel or dangerous treatment. They should report any type of abuse to the proper university channels. A college or university has a legal obligation to prevent hazing and protect students.
On the other hand, if you have an older child who has already become a full-fledged sorority or fraternity member, it is critical that you remind them that they cannot engage in hazing. Beyond the school’s potential punishments, your child may be subject to legal consequences for their participation in such action. This can include criminal charges should a person be injured as a result of the hazing or civil charges should the individual or their family sue for such action.
Finally, if your child is over eighteen but has a girlfriend or boyfriend under eighteen you must speak to them of the potential consequences of sexting. While your child may be engaging in consensual behavior, the fact that their significant other is underage means that your child may be in possession of what would be considered child pornography. As a result, your child could face potential felony sex charges.
College is a time of great growth and development. However, during this time your child is no longer under your complete protection. More importantly, they are viewed as adults in the eyes of the law. It is essential that they understand how this affects the potential consequences of their actions. Should the unthinkable happen and your child finds themselves dealing with a legal issue in or near Chattanooga, and they need a criminal defense attorney, contact us at Best and Brock.