Criminal charges as a college student are a serious challenge. You face consequences not only from the criminal justice system or from the university’s student conduct code, your career and other opportunities may also punish you for the mistakes you make today.

College is about learning inside and outside the classroom. But you can’t learn the complex and unforeseeable consequences of criminal charges as a college student fast enough. A student now in trouble with the law needs experience beyond their years.

An arrest means thinking and staying calm

First, a warning. When arrested for criminal misconduct, remember these simple rules. They may be difficult to live by when the time comes, but you will thank yourself later:

  • Follow instructions and be cooperative.
  • Be quiet. You have the right to remain silent even before you’re read those Miranda rights telling you so.
  • Contact an attorney as soon as possible.

The more common crimes that get college students into trouble involve vehicle accidents, carrying illegal drugs like marijuana (or alcohol if you’re under 21), using a fake ID, and the classic, very-bad-idea crimes of public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, assault and battery, and property damage.

Staying out of trouble in the first place, especially in public, is the best friend you’ll meet in college.

Minimizing criminal charges and marks on your record

Once you’ve handled the arrest as well as possible, consult a defense attorney. They will likely focus on getting the charges reduced or dropped, which may take time and your cooperation. You’ll need to speak privately and very honestly with the attorney and, again, follow instructions.

An experienced attorney will seek to match your situation and needs to those of the local criminal justice system. For example, you might reduce your charges by pleading guilty to less serious charges and agreeing to certain conditions such as a driver’s license suspension or drug and alcohol treatment. If you are given a second chance, be grateful for it and take full advantage of the opportunity to get it right the next time.