This month and next, as millions of cars are loaded up to deliver students to colleges around the country, there’s one additional essential the parents behind Boston-area startup StudentDefend hope families will remember to pack: an attorney.
“Getting in trouble with the law is something no student or family wants to think about,” says Bonnie Garaventi, co-founder of StudentDefend. “But the reality is that even the best kids can find themselves in trouble at college. If that ever happens, it’s critical to get experienced legal advice right away, to keep a bad situation from becoming worse.”
This is something Bonnie, a physical therapist, and her husband, Jim, know all too well after an eye-opening experience with one of their own children at college. Subsequent conversations with other parents, students, law enforcement officials, attorneys, and university administrators led to the idea behind StudentDefend - a 24/7 “hotline” that provides student members fast, easy and affordable access to experienced defense attorneys in their area, and immediate legal advice.
“It’s estimated that one of every nine college students will end up in trouble with police or other authorities just due to alcohol, and students really don’t have very good options for help at that point,” explains Jim Garaventi, StudentDefend co-founder and a greater Boston advertising executive. “Basically, they can either ‘cooperate’ with authorities, who may not have the student’s best interests at heart, or call a parent who, if reached, will probably act emotionally and is unlikely to have the legal knowledge to help right then and there.
“StudentDefend is designed to provide a better option, letting students connect to a pre-screened defense attorney who will provide urgent legal advice with just one call.”
Like renter’s insurance, emergency credit cards and AAA memberships, the Garaventis believe a legal emergency plan is as important as all the other measures parents consider to help protect their college-bound children.
As Bonnie Garaventi points out, “This world has changed since parents like us were in college. Today, with everything from the exposure social media generates, to campuses and communities with little tolerance for pranks, students away from home for the first time can easily find themselves outside of the law -- often without even realizing it. In many cases their ‘crime’ is merely being in the same place as others who are making a bad choice. Even a minor legal incident can affect their financial aid, sports eligibility, even their career prospects down the road.”
The StudentDefend website was launched earlier this summer, and coverage begins September 1, 2014. Membership costs $89 a year or less. A nation-wide network of attorneys provides coverage in all 50 US states.
The first national legal hotline for college students, StudentDefend’s unique service was shaped with valuable input from experts in the fields of law enforcement, criminal defense, information services, and college student life. Membership begins at $89. Parents and students can learn more about this new service, and join online, at www.studentdefend.com.
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