Vail Daily column: Now that you’re 18 …
Editor’s note: This is the second part of a six-part series.
In the first part of this series, we focused, from a legal perspective, on some of what it means to be 18. Among other things, we looked at matters relating to cars, driving, insurance and the basics of renting your first apartment.
As I mentioned in the first column, 18 is the dividing line between childhood (“minority”) and most of the obligations and responsibilities of adulthood (“majority”). This series is intended to be general in nature and does not dwell upon the specifics of Colorado law. Rather, it is intended to address what the law might be, in at least some of the jurisdictions to which our newly unleashed 18-year-olds might venture, and to summarize much of what is common among them.
The subject of this column is having fun as well as the rights, duties and obligations of adulthood that weigh upon having fun once you turn 18.
While with the onset of adulthood there arrive many new opportunities for having fun, it is best to bear in mind that there are legal limits and adult-like consequences, too. If your parties disturb the peace, a peace officer may well come banging at your door. If your frat initiation is overly zealous, ritualistic, dangerous or involves the consumption of alcohol by minors, then someone could well enjoy the hospitality of the local hoosegow. Worse, if someone were to be injured, then serious criminal charges could result.
Some things that might result in the police being summoned to break up your unruly party include: fighting, overly loud music or activities, rowdiness, excessive (or underage) alcohol consumption and/or illegal drug use, or partying into the wee hours of the night.
If the police show up, they may not only break up the party but, depending upon the circumstances, may make arrests. What’s more, your landlord might determine to evict you. On a slightly brighter note, if strangers or uninvited guests “crash” your party, then you may summon the police to boot the trespassers out.
There are limits to permissible frat or sorority initiations. “Hazing” is illegal. “Hazing” is defined as any method of initiation into a student organization which causes (or is likely to cause) bodily danger, physical harm, or personal degradation or disgrace.
If you engage in hazing, then you could be heavily fined and/or sent to jail. If hazing is going on, the best thing to do is to leave and to report it to the appropriate authorities, anonymously if you must. While doing so may feel like “ratting out” your friends, failing to do so could result in someone being seriously injured and serious criminal charges being leveled against those friends.
Drinking alcoholic beverages under the age of 21 is illegal in most states. Purchasing alcoholic beverages under the age of 21 is illegal. Use or possession of any controlled substance without a prescription is illegal. I’ll leave the health and moral implications to your parents. What constitutes an alcoholic beverage (by percentage alcoholic content) varies within narrow confines from state to state. Some states have very strict definitions, defining an alcoholic beverage as one having greater than one-half of 1 percent alcoholic content. It is best to learn the law of where you’ll be visiting or living before you hoist a cold one.
If you use a fake ID, or someone else’s ID, to purchase alcohol (or gain access to an establishment serving alcohol or to a gaming facility), then you will be breaking the law. Additionally, the person who furnished you the fake ID may face his or her own charges. You cannot lend, borrow or alter a driver’s license or other identification in any way. This is particularly germane in our post 9/11 world.
Non-over-the counter, non-prescriptive drug use or possession is illegal. The kind of trouble you can get into depends, among other things, upon: the type or class of drug, the quantity in your possession, whether you distribute it to others and the jurisdiction. Some states have (relative to others) lenient drug laws when it comes to small quantities of marijuana kept for personal use (although it is still illegal). Some states, like our own, sanction the use of marijuana, but the age for medicinal and recreational use is different and you may not under any circumstance supply or sell marijuana to another.
In most, if not all states, possession of “harder” drugs may subject you to serious felony charges. In addition to criminal charges (and a potentially long prison sentence), if you are convicted of a drug offense, then you will not only have a record which will trail you for the rest of your life, but you may also be kicked out of school. Drug possession of even tiny amounts in foreign countries is nothing if not foolhardy. In some countries, possession of even minuscule amounts of drugs (even marijuana) could subject you to the death penalty. No kidding.
Not only is the possession, use and distribution of illegal drugs prohibited, but the use of someone else’s prescription drugs is also illegal. Depending on the drug, the potential fine and prison time could be significant, as much as 10 years or longer. Similarly, the use of controlled body building drugs (such as anabolic steroids) is illegal. If you are convicted of distribution, you could spend up to five years in prison and pay fines up to $250,000 under federal law. Again, I’ll leave the moral and health discussion of drug and anabolic steroid use to you and your parents. Suffice it to say that drugs — whether used for recreation or to build strong bodies 12 ways — are a life-wrecker. Not only can they ruin your health and emotional well-being, but the curse of a drug conviction can simply destroy your future. Simply, stay away.
Eighteen is a joyous age and the beginning of an exciting adventure into adulthood. Treated responsibly, new and varied opportunities will open up for you and reward you with a myriad of pleasures. Treated irresponsibly and immaturely, however, then the obligations of adulthood that come along with these adventures will smack you down hard. You are an adult now. Act like one and the world is your oyster. Screw up now, and the consequences stick.
In Part 3 of this series, money matters upon turning 18.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his email addresses, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.