Overlooking Risks When a Child Goes to College

college-smOnce again, it’s the time of year parents are sending a child off to college. This recent article in Forbes highlights a number of financial and non-financial situations that parents should fully consider to minimize risks for themselves and their children: http://onforb.es/1LGI5p9

Whether it is talking with an insurance agent to make sure your child has appropriate auto and premises liability coverage, to teaching your child about identify theft and responsible behavior online (and offline), Forbes has suggestions to strongly consider, for your child’s freshman year and beyond.

We all know that a real risk of college life is a child’s arrest for a crime occurring on or off-campus. Unfortunately, too many people do not fully appreciate the collateral consequences of criminal behavior, which usually begins at time of arrest, not conviction, and continue long afterwards. Even minor charges, including those that do not result in conviction, may have serious and lifelong impacts on a person’s education, employment, housing, and credit. For example, shortly after the arrest, colleges often suspend or expel a student for behavior violating its code of conduct, sometimes resulting in paid tuition being forfeited. If the student is disciplined by the school, that will stay in his/her school file forever, making it difficult to transfer or complete a degree.

A careless mistake made by a young college student may result in permanent punishment of the child. In Colorado, convictions for alcohol or drug-related driving crimes, for instance, may not be sealed (a/k/a expunged), staying with you forever. Some states have laws barring individuals with criminal histories from civic activities — like voting, and certain jobs — like cutting hair. We often receive requests to help someone seal a conviction that occurred decades earlier because it keeps coming up in background checks, whether for employment or volunteering at their child’s school.

We encourage letting your children know should they have an encounter at a bar, concert, or private event, if stopped by security, stay calm and know your rights to leave the premises. Ask politely “Am I being detained? Why? Am I free to go, or am I under arrest?” If the police arrive, remain silent and polite. “Officer, I am choosing the right to remain silent. I want a lawyer.” Do not consent to a search of a bag, backpack, cell phone or clothing. “Officer, I do not consent to you searching me or my property.” If possible, record the encounter. These steps will go a long way making the prosecution’s case much more difficult to prove to a jury, potentially resulting in a more favorable outcome for your child.

We encourage all parents to speak with their children attending college about the known and sometimes unknown situations and risks. Should your child find himself or herself involved in a legal matter, whether criminal or civil, he/she should get quality legal advice and work with an attorney to carefully consider which legal options work best for the particular situation.