Why do so many college students get into legal trouble?

College is a time when young adults learn more about the things that interest them the most and develop a network for their professional future. They will discover who they are, find their passion and perhaps start a relationship that will lead to marriage.

Unfortunately, for a small but still significant number of people, college is also when they inadvertently acquire a criminal record that will affect them for the rest of their lives. Why are criminal mistakes so common among college students?

College students aren’t ready for real-world consequences

In a lot of ways, college is like a stepping stone on the way to the real world. After the support of living at home during high school, it can be a big change to start managing one’s own schedule and meeting all of one’s own needs. All too often, college students will prioritize adventure and socialization over what is actually better for them in the long run.

College parties are full of underage drinking and often drugs. Students may get into fights or experience messy relationships that lead to violence, bad behavior and even criminal accusations. Although some of these issues will end on their own, others may lead to arrest and a student facing charges. Those students may fail to understand the gravity of the possible consequences.

Confusion about jurisdiction can play a role

Young adults expect leniency when it comes to criminal accusations. After all, colleges tend to turn a blind eye or to mete out only administrative punishments for those accused of common college offenses, like alcohol-related crimes and drug possession offenses on campus.

Only serious issues, like property offenses and violent attacks, typically wind up reported to the police if they occur on campus. Some students will expect the school and any security professionals involved to help them protect themselves rather than to hold them accountable.

However, there is no guarantee of leniency when someone commits a crime on campus, nor is there any protection against arrest when someone engages in the same behavior at an off-campus housing location. College students who encounter state law enforcement officers may not give them the respect they deserve, or they may try to talk their way out of an arrest. Neither approach is likely to work well.

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