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What you need to know when you turn 18

It’s the Law

Posted: July 25, 2008 1:14 a.m.
Updated: September 25, 2008 5:01 a.m.
At 18, you are now an adult in the eyes of the law. You can enter into contracts, buy and/or sell property, real estate or stock, marry, sue and/or be sued, make a will, inherit property, vote, serve on a jury, control your own medical treatment and join the military, but still have NO rights with alcohol. Your parents no longer have to support you. You are responsible for your own taxes and insurance and must register for the military. You are no longer entitled to the protection of the juvenile court system.

This guide touches on the basic laws that apply at this turning point.

Getting around
You do not need parental consent or formal driver’s training to obtain a driver’s license. You can now be employed as a driver. You are now personally responsible for your driving tickets and accidents, as well as the mandatory obligation to carry proof of auto insurance.

Possessing or consuming alcohol, even away from any vehicle, could result in a loss of driving privileges. Any measurable alcohol in your system when driving is a misdemeanor.

Moving out
If you rent, you are required to have a lease, if the terms cover a year or more. If you do not pay your rent when due, you will receive a notice to pay or leave within three days. Your landlord is required to keep the premises in a “reasonable state of repair.” However, if the damage were your fault, you are responsible for its repair.

Having fun
You are violating the “disturbing the peace” criminal statute by fighting, playing loud music, engaging in rowdiness or creating any other unreasonably loud noise. Crashing a party is illegal trespassing.
Hazing — defined as any method of initiation into a student organization which is likely to cause physical harm or personal degradation — is a crime punishable by up to $5,000 fine, jail and potential civil damages.

It is a crime to alter any driver’s license or use someone else’s in any way for identification.

Controlled substances carry a felony charge for possession alone, including concentrated marijuana, heroin, cocaine, LSD, amphetamines and barbiturates. This could also cover using someone else’s prescription medication, including steroids. These have a maximum penalty of up to five years and/or $50,000 fine, but first offenders undergoing a treatment program usually end up with a dismissal.

Marijuana (under 28.5 grams) is a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $100, but possession on school property during school hours could mean 10 days of jail. Also, any equipment designed to help grow, make or use an illegal drug is illegal. In fact, it is illegal to even be present anywhere where illegal drugs are present, if you are participating or assisting others in their use.

However, it is a felony to possess any drugs, even misdemeanor drugs, with “intent to sell or distribute.” Such a conviction could bar future student grants and loan from federal funding. Any intent to sell to a minor or at a location with children present could carry a nine-year sentence.

If you are convicted of any drug or alcohol related offense and you are under 21 years of age, your license can be suspended for one year, in addition to any penalty imposed for the conviction.

Sex and the law
Consequences are severe. If you have sex with anyone younger than 18 years old, even if it is with your consenting 17-year-old girlfriend, it is a statutory rape, and you may be required to register as a sex offender for life.

If you get your girlfriend pregnant, you are legally responsible for child support until the child turns 18, even if you do not want the child and/or she lied to you about protection.

Military service
All 18-year-old males must register with the Selective Service System to qualify for federal and state student financial aid, jobs and job training, as well as face up to a $250,000 fine and/or five years in prison.

Guns and weapons
At 18, you can buy a rifle or shotgun, but you must be 21 to purchase a handgun. It is illegal to conceal a weapon (in car or on body), leave a loaded gun where a child has access or possess a firearm within 1,000 ft. of any K-12 school. You cannot possess a blackjack, billy club, explosives, switchblade, taser, stun gun or metal knuckles.

Any knife with a blade longer than two inches may also be illegal. You need a license to hunt any bird or animal, plus a “certificate of competence” from a hunter safety course.

Kevin Yeam is an attorney in Santa Clarita specializing in insurance claims and civil litigation. His column represents his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. “It’s the Law” appears Fridays and rotates between members of the Santa Clarita Valley Bar Association.


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