A look at kids’ legal rights
Vail, CO, Colorado
Let’s say that you’re a kid or that you know one. As any liberated 21st century kid will tell you, kids have rights. And they do.
This series will explain some of the more important of those rights in a general way and, unless highlighted otherwise, does not consider the specifics or idiosyncrasies of Colorado law. Rather, the series is intended to summarize much of what is common among many jurisdictions, and to point those interested to some resources for further investigation.
A primary question is, what is a kid or, more properly, a “minor?” The legal answer is simple; a minor is, according to the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution, a person under the age of 18 years.
When a person is a minor, he or she, however gifted or competent, is considered to be incompetent at law to:
Enter into binding contracts.
Buy or sell property.
Marry without the consent of his or her parent, guardian or a judge.
Sue or be sued.
Make a will or inherit property outright.
Join the military
Even when reaching the age of majority, a person does not gain all rights and privileges of an adult.
Although some adult privileges and responsibilities come before the age of majority (such as the right to operate a motor vehicle), others do not accrue until years after reaching the age of majority (such as the right to purchase alcoholic beverages). What the age of majority really amounts to then is crossing the threshold of when one is generally treated like and considered to be an adult.
In the graduation season when at least some newly minted adults are hurrahing their perceived “liberation,” as with most gains, there comes with them perhaps an equal number of losses. Among these, you may number:
The right to parental support, care and shelter.
The right to be treated as a juvenile before the law.
The right to be protected from exploitation under the child labor laws
Let’s start the heavy lifting with alcohol. The legal age for drinking in most states is 21. Not only is the purchase and possession of alcohol by minors a violation of the law, but so too is providing alcoholic beverages to anyone under the age of 21.
Generally, persons under the age of 21 are prohibited from being in bars or other similar establishments where liquor is served, and possession of fake identification to purchase or attempt to purchase alcohol or to enter an establishment where liquor is being served is a crime. It is legal for a person under 21 to be present in a home where persons over 21 are drinking but it is illegal to provide alcohol to anyone under 21. Except is some states where parents may serve their own underage children, those who provide alcohol to those under 21 ” even in their homes ” can be held criminally liable for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
In many states, if a person under 18 causes a traffic accident while under the influence of alcohol, the parents may face criminal charges. Even if no accident occurs, driving under the influence of alcohol ” particularly by a minor ” is a serious crime that may result in a hefty fine, loss of driving privileges and even time in jail.
Underage drinking at parties is also illegal and can result in fines, community service, the loss of driving privileges or even jail time.
To those serving alcohol to minors at bars or selling booze at liquor stores to minors, beware. Both criminal and civil repercussions may result. In many states a bar or liquor store owner may be held liable for any injuries to persons or to property which may later be caused by the minor in possession.
Next column, locomotion: bikes, skates, skateboards, scooters, cars and traffic.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. He is a member of the Colorado State Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee and is a former adjunct professor of law. Robbins lectures for Continuing Legal Education for attorneys in the areas of real estate, business law and legal ethics. He may be heard on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 926-4461 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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