Posted On: November 5, 2012

Teenagers and the Law

Turning 18 is a very exciting time in a teenager’s life, as well as for their parents. However, for most parents, along with the excitement that a parent feels for their child, there comes the serious reality of just what that means. Privileges such as being able to vote, enter into binding contracts and being able to get married, give young adults a sense of atomy and freedom. But most young adults don’t think about the serious legal implications that come along with turning 18. They are a juvenile in the eyes of the law one day and then the next, they are adults. There is no magic light switch that flips on once a child turns eighteenth, that all of the sudden changes the way they think and act. Their impulses and behaviors are still the same because they are the same child they were the day before.

When a minor, someone under the age of 18 years, comes in contact with the police and/or court system, the consequences, depending upon the circumstances, are put in place not only to teach that child a lesson but also to help the child get back on the right track. The goal of the juvenile court system is rehabilitation and also to protect the child’s record so that their future is not affected by their mistakes. However, once that child turns 18, the whole system is different. It is much more harsh and unforgiving.

As an example, if a 17 year old is out with friends and decides to “TP” a friend or neighbor’s house, and they get caught, it is likely that the parents will be made aware of it but unlikely that they will be charged with trespassing and/or vandalism. However, if that same child turns 18 and is out with that same group of friends and decides to “TP” a friend or neighbor’s house, there is the possibility that he/she can be charged with trespassing and/or vandalism.

It is not uncommon for an 18 year old to still be in high school. Unfortunately, the use of prescription painkillers by teenagers is becoming more and more common and, it is not uncommon for teenagers to share and/or sell them on school grounds. If someone is arrested with prescription drugs and they do not have a prescription for such drug, they face a drug possession charge. If however, they are arrested with more than what would be deemed a reasonable amount for personal use, the charge could be possession with intent to sell. What makes this even more serious, is that State law imposes severe penalties on anyone 18 or older who illegally sells or gives a controlled substance to a minor and if you do so at school or within 1,000 feet of school during school hours, the penalty could be as much as 9 years in State Prison.

Although any minor can be arrested for any criminal offense, the same as an adult, the way in which it is handled and the ultimate outcome is the difference between being 18 or under 18 years of age. A good criminal defense attorney with experience in both juvenile and adult defense law will be much better able to minimize the effects that the arrest and charge will have on a young person’s life. Presenting this young adult in a positive light, as well as convincing the prosecution that even though someone has turned 18 or older, mentally and emotionally they are still very young naïve.