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Teenagers, Young Adults and the Law

Getting Around

You may already have a driver's license. (You were eligible for a provi¬sional driver's license at age 16.) But now that you are 18, the law applies to you differently in some instances. For example, you can be employed as a driver now. On the other hand, being caught with a beer or other alcoholic beverage — whether you are in a car or far from one — could still result it the temporary loss of your driving privileges.

How does the law treat me differently now that I’m 18?

The greatest change may be that the law now holds you (not your parents) responsible for your actions. At age 18, you assume liability for your own traffic violations or accidents. It is your responsibility to know (and follow) the rules of the road described in the California Driver Handbook. When you were younger, your parents could be held legally responsible for at least some damages and financial losses caused by your actions. (VC §617707-17710)

Do I need my own car insurance?

Yes, you must carry proof of insurance (or certain other financial responsibility) when you drive. (VC 616020) if you are a student, your parents may be able to keep you on their car insurance until you are 24 if they are co-owners of your car. Otherwise, you will have to get your own insurance.
Also, when you buy a car, you will receive the California Certificate of' Title, commonly known as the "pink slip." It is a very important document, which contains detailed information about the car and provides proof of ownership. The seller is required to sign the pink slip and notify the DMV within five days to finalize the transfer and be discharged from any further responsibilities. The buyer must have the pink slip recorded with the DMV as well within 10 days. (VC 66 4000, 4150, 5600, 5900, 5902)

If I don't already have a driver's license at age 18, how do I get one?

First of all, you no longer have to meet the special requirements and restrictions that apply to younger drivers. For example, you do not have to complete formal driver's education or training to apply for a driver's license. Instead, you must simply:

  • Give your full name.
  • Supply a thumbprint.
  • Pass a vision exam.
  • Provide your Social Security number.
  • Verify your birth date and legal presence.
  • Have your picture taken.
  • Fill out an application and pay a fee.
  • Pass a written exam on traffic laws and signs.
  • Sign a declaration that you will take a chemical test if requested

You will then be issued an instruction permit that will allow you to drive on public roads if accompanied by someone over 18 years old. (He or she must be sitting close enough to grab the steering wheel if neces¬sary.) 'Then, to get your actual driver's license, you must pass a driving test and provide proof of financial responsibility. For more information, visit the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Web site at www.dmv.ca.gov

What could happen if I drive after drinking a beer or two?

You would be putting yourself and others in danger. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year¬ olds. And statistics show that roughly one in three young drivers killed in car crashes had been drinking alcohol beforehand. In addition, it is illegal for anyone to drive under the influence of alcohol. If you are under 21, you cannot drive with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.01 percent or higher. Drivers who are 21 and older cannot have a BAC of 0.08 percent or more. (VC §§ 23136; 23152(b)).

If a police officer stops you for driving under the influence, he or she can administer a breath, blood or urine test to determine your blood-alcohol level. If you refuse to take the test, you could face serious penalties. You could be fined or jailed and have your driver's license suspended or revoked for up to three years. (VC §§ 13353.1, 23136, 23612)

Also, you could still be convicted of DUI even if a breath, blood or urine test is riot performed. A chemical test is not required for a conviction if the judge or jury concludes that the person under age 21 drank alcohol and drove a vehicle. And if you are convicted, it could mean a stiff fine, jail time and even suspension or revocation of your driver's license. (VC §§ 23140, 23536)

If I'm caught drinking alcohol with my friends, can my driver's license be taken away?

Yes. If you are under 21 and are cited for drinking alcohol at a party, for example, you could wind up with a suspended driver's license even if you were nowhere near a car at the time. Young people between 13 and 21 can have their licenses suspended, restricted or delayed for up to one year for each offense related to the possession, consumption or purchase of alcohol. (B&PC §§ 25658, 25662(a); VC § 13202.5)

Do I need a permit or license to operate a motorized scooter?

Yes. State law requires you to have a valid instruction permit or driver's license to operate a motorized scooter. You must wear a proper bicycle helmet as well. (VC §§ 12500, 1.2509, 211235)

Do bicycle riders have to follow the same traffic laws as motorists?

Yes, for the most part. Bicycle riders must stop at stop signs and red lights, ride on 'the proper side of the street and give the right-of-way to all pedestrians. In addition, it is illegal to ride a bike while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Nighttime bicyclists must have a bike equipped with a front light, red rear reflector, pedal reflectors and side reflectors or reflectorized tires. Wearing a radio headset is prohibited while riding a bike. Also, the number of people who can ride on a bike is limited to the number of actual seats. It is against the law to ride on someone's handlebars or center frame bar, or over the bike's rear tire. (VC §§ 21201, 21204)

Laws that Young Drivers Should Know

Reckless driving: California law prohibits driving a vehicle on a highway or in an off-street parking facility in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others or property, it also provides for more severe punishment for reckless drivers who cause injuries. (VC §§ 23103, 23104)

Speed contests: Speed contests are against the law. A judge can suspend or restrict a first-time offender's driver's license for up to six months, impound the vehicle for 30 days and send the driver to jail for 90 days, as well as impose fines and community service. And if someone other than the driver is injured, the driver could face up to six months in jail and a higher fine. (VC §§ 23109-23109.2)

Littering and throwing objects at or from a vehicle: California law makes it a misdemeanor to throw anything at or from a moving vehicle, and a felony to do so if the intent is to seriously hurt someone. The law also prohibits littering or throwing lighted cigarettes from a motor vehicle; the penalties for doing so range from a $100 fine to a $1,000 fine and an order to pick up litter or clean graffiti for a first conviction. (VC §§ 23110-12, 42001.7)

Hit and run: In California, you must stop after any accident in which someone is injured or another person's property is damaged. You also must exchange names, addresses, driver's licenses, vehicle licenses and other relevant information. If any¬one is injured or dies in the collision, the accident must be reported to the California Highway Patrol (CHP) or to police. When property damage alone is involved, the maximum penalty for tailing to report such damage or notify the property owner is six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. If someone is injured, the penalty could be as stiff as a $10,000 fine and/or one year in jail, in addition to any liability for the injury. (VC §§ 20001-08)

Driving without a license: It is a misdemeanor to drive without a valid driver's license in California. Also, by law, you must have your license with you when you drive. And if you drive with a suspended or revoked license, you could face up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine for a first conviction. (VC §§ 12500-27, 40000.11(b))

Cell phones and driving: As of July 2008, it will be against the law to use a cell phone while driving unless you are at least 18 and your cell phone is set up for hands-free use, or you are making an emergency call (to law enforcement, for example). Drivers under age 18 will be prohibited from talking on cell phones, "texting" messages or using any mobile service device while driving — except to place an emergency call. (VC §§ 23123, 23124)

Seat belts/child passenger restraints: It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle unless the driver and all passengers are properly restrained by safety belts. (VC § 27315) Violators can be fined. Children must be secured in federally approved safety seats until they are either 6 years old or weigh 60 pounds. And they must sit in a back seat, if there is one, unless all rear seats are already occupied by children under 12. Children who are under a year old or are restrained in a rear-facing car seat or weigh less than 20 pounds are not permitted to ride in the front seat with an active air bag. (VC §§ 27360-27360.5) It is also recommended that children under age 8, who are less than 4 feet, 9 inches tall, be strapped into booster seats. For more information, call the Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-800-424-9393 or go to www.nhtsa.gov.

Unattended children: It is against the law to leave a child (age 6 or younger) unattended in a motor vehicle if the child will be at risk or if the engine is running and the keys are in the ignition. In such situations, the child must be supervised by a responsible person age 12 or older. (VC § 15620; PC §§ 192, 273a)

Road rage: A driver may cut you off and nearly cause an accident, but avoid taking matters into your own hands. Road rage can result in a six-month suspension of your driver's license (first offense) and an order to complete a "road rage" course, and could even land you in jail. Or you could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon, and face up to four years in prison and a $10,000 fine. (VC § 13210; PC § 245(a))

Smoking, cars and kids: It is against the law to smoke a pipe, cigar or cigarette in a vehicle ---- whether it is moving or parked — if anyone under 18 is in the car. If you light up with an underage youth on board, you could be cited for an infraction and fined up to $100. (H&SC §§ 118947-118949)

Blaring music and loud horns: Think twice before cranking up your car's sound system or misusing your horn while on the road. Such noise could lead to a ticket or even, in some instances, misdemeanor charges. Generally, the car horn can only be used as a warning "when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation" of the car or as a theft alarm system. And your music (or other sound amplification system) is too loud if it can be heard from 50 feet away. This would not apply to certain sound systems, such as those used for emergencies, advertising or political events. (VC §§ 27001, 27007; PC § 415)

Passengers in the trunk: Riding in the trunk of a car is illegal. In recent years, dozens of teens have been hurt and, in some cases, killed while riding in car trunks. If a driver allows someone to ride in the trunk, he or she has broken the law as well. (VC § 21712)

Obscuring your license plate: It is illegal to use or sell any product (such as a special coating) intended to obscure the reading of a car license plate by certain electronic devices. Such electronic devices include, for example, those operated by law enforcement and those used in connection with toll roads, high-occupancy toll lanes and toll bridges. Selling or using any such product could lead to a fine. (VC §§ 5201(g), 5201.1)

Having fun

As a young adult, you will have many new opportunities for fun and games. Keep in mind, however, that there are legal limits. For example, if your parties "disturb the peace," a police officer may be knocking on your door. If you disrupt a professional sporting event by throwing something onto the field, you could face a fine. And if you are subjected to dangerous rituals during your initiation into a college fraternity, someone could wind up in jail.

When would a party be disruptive enough to illegally disturb the peace?

(PC § 415)
Police officers could break up your party — and, depending on the circumstances, make arrests—if the festivities include:

  • Fighting.
  • Loud music.
  • Rowdiness.
  • Loud, unreasonable noise.

What could happen if I'm arrested for spray-painting graffiti?

Expressing yourself with spray paint on someone else's property could land you in jail, or even prison, and could cost you as much as $50,000 in fines, depending on the extent of damage. You also could be required to pay for repairing the damaged property and be forced to work on a work crew to remove graffiti in your area. (PC §594(b))

Do I need a special license to operate a motorboat?

No. But take the time to learn the speed limits and right-of-way rules. And if you plan to tow a water-skier, know where and how to do it. As the boat operator, you could be held responsible for any accidents.

And while alcohol may be present on a boat, it is illegal for the driver to be under the influence. If a drunken boat operator is at the helm when a fatal accident occurs, he or she could be charged with gross vehicular manslaughter. (PC §§ 191.5-193.5)

If you are under 21, it is illegal to operate any recreational vessel or even water ski with 0.01 percent or more blood-alcohol concentration. (HNC § 655.6)

Alcohol and Drugs

Three out of four high school seniors admit drinking alcohol, a recent survey suggests. More than half have been drunk at some point. And roughly one in two say they have tried some type of illegal drug. But drinking alcohol under the age of 21 or using any type of controlled substance without a prescription is illegal. And it can wreak havoc on your health and life.

In recent years, the non-medical use of certain painkillers, such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, by teenagers and a slight upswing in the use of MDMA (ecstasy) have raised concerns. In addition, certain so-called "club drugs" have been associated with "date rape" in which a drug is slipped into an unsuspecting victim's drink to pave the way for a sexual assault. And in a recent survey, a troubling number of teens — one in 16 high school seniors — admitted they had misused over-the-counter cough and cold medications for the purpose of getting "high."

Am I allowed to buy any type of alcoholic beverage at age 18?

No. In California, it is against the laws for anyone under 21 to buy (or attempt to buy) any alcoholic beverage. The law defines an alcoholic beverage as any drink that contains at least one-half of one percent alcohol. (B&PC §§ 23004, 25658(b), 25658.5)
Nor is it legal to sell or give an alcoholic beverage to anyone under 21, or to allow anyone under 21 to drink alcohol in a bar, restaurant or store. If you look younger than 21, you will be asked to prove your age. And if you can't provide ID, the clerk can't sell alcohol to you. (B&PC §§ 25658(a), 25658.4, 25659)

Can I get in trouble for using someone else's driver's license or altering my own to look 21?

Yes. Either way, you would be breaking the law. Also, the person who provided you with the false identification would be committing a crime as well. You cannot lend, borrow or alter a driver's license or other identification in any way. (B&PC §§ 25660.5, 25661; VC § 14610)

What can happen if I am arrested for drug possession?

It would depend on the type and amount of drugs, as well as other factors. More than 135 controlled substances carry a felony charge (a serious criminal charge) for possession alone. Such drugs include heroin, cocaine, LSD, amphetamines and barbiturates, among others. Conviction for felony drug possession could result in a prison sentence of up to five years and /or a $50,000 fine, depending on the drug. (H&SC §§ 11350-11352.5)

The punishment for possessing marijuana— the most commonly used illicit drug — is less severe. Possession of 28.5 grams of marijuana (other than concentrated cannabis) or less would be considered a misdemeanor (a less serious criminal charge) with a fine of up to $100. Possession. of the same amount on school property during school hours, however, could mean 10 days of jail time and/or a $500 fine. (H&SC §§11357(b), 11357(d))

In California, you may be able to undergo a drug treatment program instead of prosecution if you are a first-time drug offender. And if you successfully complete the program, the drug charges could be dismissed. (PC §§ 1.000-1000.5, 1211)

However, if you are arrested with more drugs than someone might reasonably possess for personal use, you could face more serious charges of possession with intent to sell. This is a. felony even if possession of the particular drug alone would not be a felony. (H&SC § 11351)

A drug conviction could endanger your future schooling as well. If you are convicted of possession or distribution of a controlled substance, you could be barred from receiving benefits—including student grants and loans—from any program using federal funding, except for certain long-term drug treatment. (21 USC § 862)

If I get caught selling drugs at school, could I be in even more trouble?

Yes. State law imposes severe penalties on anyone 18 or older who illegally prepares for sale, sells or gives a controlled substance to any minor at locations where other children are present. This would include, for example, a school campus or daycare center. Such conduct could result in a prison sentence of tip to nine years. (H&SC §§ 1.1353.1 11353.7)

Is it against the lazy to use someone else's drug prescription?

Yes. To possess or use someone else's prescription is illegal. Depending on the drug, the penalty could range from 12 months in jail and a $500 fine, to a sentence of five to 10 years in prison and a fine of $5,000 to $10,000. (H&SC §§ 11007, 11350-11353.7)

Could I get in trouble just for holding a friend's roach clip or drug pipe?

Yes. Possession of drug paraphernalia — any equipment designed to help grow, make or use a controlled substance — is illegal. In addition, it is illegal for you to be present anywhere (a party, for example) where controlled substances are being used if you are participating or assisting others in their use. (H&SC §§ 11014.5, 11364-65)

Could I lose my driver's license if I'm convicted of drug possession?

Yes. In California, your license can be suspended for one year if you are between 13 and 21 years old and you are convicted of drug- or alcohol-related offenses. Also, successive offenses could result in further suspension or delay of driving privileges. The suspension, restriction or delay of your license would be in addition to the penalty imposed for the conviction. (VC §§ 12806, 12809, 13202.5)

Alcohol and the Law

It is Illegal to:

  • Drink while driving or to have any open alcoholic beverage in the car (or off-highway vehicle) or to drive while under the influence of alcoholic beverages. (VC §§ 23152, 23220-23226)
  • Be drunk or under the influence of drugs in public or on a public highway and be in a condition that poses a threat to oneself or others. (PC § 647(f); VC § 23220)
  • Possess or drink liquor (or sell or give it to anyone else) at any public school or on school grounds. (B&PC § 25608)
  • Allow anyone under 21 to hang around a location where liquor is sold (except for a restaurant). (B&PC §§25657(b), 25665)
  • Have any open alcoholic beverage in any city- or county owned park or certain other public places without a special license or unless you are recycling the container. (For this law to be in effect, the city or county must have its own local rule --- also called an ordinance— prohibiting opened alcoholic beverages in specific areas.) (B&PC § 25620)

And if you are under 21, you cannot:

  • Possess liquor on any roadway or in any public place; carry liquor in a car; or be a passenger in a car carrying liquor unless you're accompanied by a parent, responsible adult relative or any other adult designated by the parent or legal guardian -- even if the container is sealed. (B&PC § 25662; VC § 23224)
  • Enter and remain in a bar without lawful business. (B&PC § 25665)
  • hired to work in any establishment whose main business is selling alcoholic beverages for use on the premises. If you are under 18, you cannot work anywhere in which alcoholic beverages are purchased for take-out (a liquor or convenience store, for example) unless you are under the continuous supervision of someone who is at least 21. (B&PC § 25663)

Sex and the Law

You may not realize the consequences. You may see it as love. But having sex with anyone under age 18 — even if it is with your consenting 17-year-old girlfriend -- is against the law. It would only be legal if the two of you were married. Otherwise, at age 18, you could be charged with statutory rape. And. depending on the circumstances, you could be in serious trouble.

Or maybe you were the victim of a date rape. Or you think your sister was groped inappropriately. Or your best friend is pregnant and hiding it from her family. As a young adult, you could face a variety of difficult situations involving sex and the law.

What is sexual assault and battery?

It is any type of sexual activity to which you did not consent—and it is illegal. Assaulting or aiding in the assault of another with the intent to commit rape, sodomy or oral copulation is felony sexual assault. (PC § 220)

Touching another person 'intimately without consent for sexual gratification, arousal or sexual abuse could be sexual battery, and may lead to jail or prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. (And, as a convicted sexual batterer, you may have to register as a sex offender for life.) (PC §§ 243.4, 290)

Data suggests that women in their late teens and early 20s are more likely to be raped than women in other age groups. One scenario is date rape, also called acquaintance rape, in which an encounter turns into non¬consensual sex. Keep in mind that friendship, dating or even marital status does not convey an invitation to sexual intercourse. Date or no date, it is rape if one of you says "no." (PC §§ 261(a)(2), 261.6, 263)

What are "date rape" drugs?

They are drugs that may be slipped into an unsuspecting victim's drink to render him or her physically helpless — and pave the way for a sexual assault. The victim may have little or no reason to suspect that anything is amiss. Such drugs are often colorless and tasteless. And they may leave the victim unable to recall what took place.

Three such drugs—also called “club drugs”—include: GHB (gamma hydroxybutyric acid); Rohypnol (flunitrazepam); and Ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride).

Those convicted of using such drugs to force sexual acts face stiffer punishment. And if someone slips you such a drug without your knowledge and then rapes you — or tries to do so — he or she could face up to 20 years in prison. (21 USC § 841(c)(7)(A))

Domestic Violence

What is domestic violence?

The law defines domestic violence as certain kinds of abuse directed toward a spouse or former spouse, a domestic partner or former domes¬tic partner, a cohabitant or former cohabitant, a person related by blood or marriage, or a person with whom the abuser has had a "dating or engagement relationship," or with whom the abuser has had a child. (FC §§ 6200 et seq.; PC § 13700(b))

Such violence is behavior driven by a need to control. It can range from threats, annoying phone calls and stalking (such as following the victim to and from work and threatening the victim), to unwanted sexual touching and hunting, to the destruction of the victim's personal property. And data suggests that women ages 16 through 24 are victimized by intimate partners at a higher rate then any other group.

Crimes and Consequences

Suppose you get caught shoplifting DVDs at age 17. You might be lectured and driven home in a police car for a first offense. But if you did the same thing at age 18, you would probably be arrested and, depending on your record, you might be sent to jail for up to a year. If you had a history of theft, you could even be imprisoned for longer.

Once you turn 18, you face much more serious consequences for breaking the law. The juvenile justice system, which puts greater focus on rehabilitation, will no longer handle your case. Instead, you will now — if you commit a crime — face adult penalties.

What is a crime?
A crime is doing something illegal — such as destroying someone else's property or using illicit drugs — that is punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment. (PC § 15)

Are there different levels of crimes?

Yes. Crimes are divided into three general categories:

Felonies are the most serious and can result in a fine and/or commitment to state prison for more than a year. In addition, certain felony convictions can lead to life in prison without the possibility of parole or even the death penalty. (PC § 17)

Misdemeanors are less serious crimes punishable by a fine and / or up to one year of jail time. (PC § 19)

Infractions usually do not involve any time in jail, but do require a. court appearance and /or payment of a fine. If charged with an infraction, you are not entitled to a jury trial or an attorney at state expense. Some traffic violations are infractions.

Some crimes are punishable as misdemeanors or felonies. Such crimes -- known as wobblers are considered felonies until judgment is imposed by a court.

What if I did something illegal without realizing it was a crime?

You are still guilty of the crime. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Ask yourself if what you are doing will harm somebody or damage someone else's property. If it will, it's wrong and may be a crime. (PC §§ 26, 27)

What happens if I am arrested?

You will be searched, handcuffed and taken to a police station. You also will be advised of your rights -- commonly known as the "Miranda" -warning — under the United States Constitution. (Miranda v. Ariz. 384 U.S. 436)

Be careful what you say to your mother or anyone else at the police station — even if you are behind closed doors. You have no right to privacy in a police station.

Once you have identified yourself, you can refuse to discuss -your case with police. Law enforcement officers cannot threaten you or force you into answering questions. Nor can they offer you leniency in. exchange for any written or oral statements. Also, you have the right to have an attorney present. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, the court will appoint one for you. (PC §§ 686(2), 851.5)

You may, however, choose to answer questions, sign papers or submit to tests. Just be aware that such information, if given voluntarily, can be used as evidence against you in court.

What happens after I have been arrested and booked?

Typically, you would be taken to court for an "initial appearance" within 24 hours. If you were arrested on a weekend, however, you might have to wait until Monday morning when court opens. (PC § 859b)

Can someone bail me out?

Maybe. It would depend on the circumstances of your case. Bail is designed to guarantee your appearance in court. The court will often require that a certain amount of money be deposited with the clerk of courts. Sometimes the court allows the deposit of a bond or the title to a home. Usually a member of your family must obtain the funds, deposit the money and show the receipt in order to get you released. In some situations, you could be released on your own recognizance without posting bail. (PC §§ 815a, 823, 859a, 1.268-1276.5)

What do I do if I can't afford an attorney?

You are entitled to an attorney. At your initial appearance, tell the judge that you wish to speak to someone from the local public defender's office. Generally, the judge will postpone your case to give you time to contact a public defender. (PC §§ 858, 859, 866.5, 987)

What happens if I help a minor break the law?

If you help a minor commit a crime, you could face criminal charges as well. (PC §§ 30-31)

What could happen if I lie or file a false police report?

It is against the law to make a. false police report, give false information to a police officer or turn in a false fire alarm. In addition, you should tell the truth if you are questioned as a witness. To lie under oath is itself a crime. (PC §§118, 148.4, 148.5)

What cart I do if I think a police officer is mistreating me?

If you are being placed under arrest, cooperate with the officer — even if you think he or she is out of line. You can, It you choose, protest and seek lawful remedies against the officer later. For example, you could. hire an attorney, seek help from a legal aid organization, or take your case to a special law enforcement agency, private agency or organization set up to handle such complaints. (PC § 834a)

If an unusually serious offense is involved or you wish to bypass such channels, you could contact the district attorney's special investigations division. Or, if a federal law may have been violated, you might con¬tact the U.S. Attorney General or FBI.

Police may not handle every situation properly. But keep in mind that a police officer's behavior is often in response to provocation, a complaint from another citizen, mistakes made under pressure or doubt as to what the law is. Good police community relations are a two-way street with both sides either contributing to the problem or to its solution.

Could I be tried as an adult even before I turn 18?

Maybe. It would depend on the nature of your crime. If you are at least 14, you can be tried as an adult for certain offenses (generally serious and violent crimes, such as murder, aggravated sexual assault, illegal use of a firearm and gang-related crimes). Prosecutors make such decisions on a case-by-case basis. (PC § 26; W&IC §§ 602, 607(6), 707)

What is the "three strikes law"?

Under the "three strikes law" (the California Career Criminal Punishment Act), a third criminal conviction could mean, in certain situations, a sentence of 25 years to life in prison. If you have been convicted of two violent or serious felony crimes (strike one and strike two) and you commit a third felony (any felony), you could be subject to the "three strikes law." And if you have a prior juvenile record, it could count if you were at least 16 when you committed any previous crimes. (PC § 667) Prosecutors and judges have some discretion in their application of the three strikes law.

Can I get my criminal record sealed?

Maybe. A California juvenile court record may be sealed when you turn 18 or five years after your last juvenile court case ended. You must ask the juvenile court to seal the record. (W&IC § 826)

However, if you were 14 or older when you committed a felony, a serious misdemeanor or certain vehicle violations, the juvenile court does not have to seal your record. (PC: § 851.7; W&IC §§ 707(b), 781)

Sealing a. California juvenile court record means that those charges, arrests and probation status reports contained in the record cannot be seen by anyone without the per¬son's permission. Once a record is sealed, you can legally tell any future employer or school admissions officer, for example, that you were never arrested. (PC § 851.7(b); W&IC § 781(a))

If my record is sealed, is it really out of reach?

Yes, for the most part. But even when a record has been sealed by the court, a partial record remains with local police, the State Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, and the FBI. (W&IC §§ 781, 826)

Once a record has been sealed, the police, probation department and court cannot legally release any information about it or even provide clarification of any information that may help the person who was convict¬ed. In some instances, the consequences of simply having a criminal record can be more severe than the punishment for the crime.

What are some consequences of having a criminal record?

  • A driver’s license may be denied on the basis of a criminal record, and many jobs require a car. (VC §§ 1.3202, 13210, 13350 et seq.)
  • A criminal record might prevent a person from being accepted by the college or university of his or her choice.
  • A person who has been convicted of a crime may be prevented from entering the armed forces or if accepted, may not be given a com¬mission or a security clearance. (10 USC § 504)
  • A person who has been convicted of a felony and is imprisoned or on parole does not have the right to vote. (El.0 §§ 2101, 2150, 2212)
  • Many businesses require employees to be bonded. An insurance company usually refuses to bond anyone who has been convicted of a felony.
  • Some employment may be closed to those convicted of crimes or those who, while minors, committed offenses which would be considered crimes if committed by an adult.
  • If you are not a citizen and you are convicted of violating any law or regulation of a state, the United States or a foreign country, you could be deported and prohibited from returning to this country. (8 USC §§ 1182, 1227) Also, law enforcement agencies are required to notify United States Immigration Services regarding the arrest of anyone who is not a citizen. (PC §§ 834b, 834c, 1016.5, 5026; Govt.C § 68109)

Are there state and federal criminal laws?

Yes. In California, most criminal laws can be found in the California Penal Code, but criminal acts also are defined in other parts of the law. For example, some city and county ordinances — such as curfew laws, laws against smoking and laws requiring smoke detectors or fire escapes — are considered criminal laws as well.

In addition, the federal government has its own system of courts, law enforcement agencies and laws. Known as the United States District Courts, federal trial courts also have their own sentencing provisions and correctional agencies.

Many federal criminal laws relate to acts involving U.S. governmental agencies, such as the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Treasury, and to crimes involving interstate commerce. Also, most federal crimes are felonies punishable by more than a year in prison.

What are some common federal crimes?

  • Transporting a stolen vehicle across state lines. (18 USC § 2313)
  • Making a false statement to the government with the intent to defraud. (18 USC § 1001)
  • Mailing matter that is obscene or incites crime. (18 USC § 1.461)
  • Transporting or importing narcotics. (21 USC § 952)
  • Forgery of government checks. (18 USC § 513)
  • Possession of stolen and items—such as credit cards—which have been stolen from the mail. (18 USC § 1708)
  • Robbery or burglary of a bank or savings and loan institution. (18 USC § 2113)

In addition, federal courts handle all state law violations committed on federal property, such as at a national park or federal office building.

Smoking and the Law

If I'm 18, is it legal to smoke?

Yes. But that doesn't mean it's healthy. And keep in mind that it is against the law to sell or give tobacco products to anyone under 18. (PC § 308)

Can I smoke wherever I want?

No. Smoking is prohibited in all public buildings and all enclosed workplaces in California. This includes, for example, all bars, restaurants and office buildings. The law is intended to protect employees statewide from the harmful health effects of second-hand tobacco smoke. (Govt.C §§ 7596-7598) In addition, a few cities have imposed even stricter bans, prohibiting smokers from lighting up in city-owned pa for example, or in public squares and certain other outdoor places.

Gang Violence and the Law

It is not against the law to belong to a street gang. However, if you are convicted of a gang-related crime, you could pay a stiffer price for what you did. Committing a violent felony with fellow street gang members, for example, could tack 10 additional years onto your prison sentence. Some cities in California and other states also have been granted civil injunctions restricting the members of certain gangs from gathering together in business establishments or public places in specific neighborhoods. Such injunctions may prohibit the gang members from wearing clothing that bears gang insignia, for example, or from talking on cell phones in certain areas. Under public nuisance law, cities have imposed up to six months in jail or a $1,000 fine against gang members who violate the injunction. (CC § 3480; PC § 186.25)

Guns and Other Weapons

When you turn 18 you are old enough to buy a rifle or shotgun if you choose. (You must be 21 to buy a handgun.) But if you do, be aware of the responsibilities, safety rules, and dangers associated with firearms. In 2005 alone, some 30,000 people died in firearm-related accidents, homicides and suicides nationwide — more than 17,000 of them dying from self-inflicted gunshot wounds.

What are some of the laws regulating guns and other weapons?
It is illegal to:

  • Leave a loaded gun in a place where a child can retrieve it. The potential penalty is a fine and prison time. (PC §§ 12035-12036)
  • Conceal a weapon on your body or in your car without a special permit. (PC §§1.2031., 12050)
  • Carry a loaded firearm in a vehicle, in a public place or in any other area where it is forbidden. (PC §§-12031, 12034; FCC § 2006)
  • Possess a firearm within 1,000 feet of any K-12 school. (PC § 626.9)
  • Possess blackjacks, billy clubs„ sandbags o metal knuckles. These can be taken and destroyed by the police. (PC §§ 12020, 12029)
  • Make a blackjack or metal knuckles, or early explosives. (PC § 12020)
  • Carry, sell, lend or give away a switch¬blade knife or similar type of knife if the blade is longer than two inches. (PC § 653k)
  • Possess a taser, stun gun„ any kind of unguarded razor blade or any knife longer than 2-1/2 inches on school grounds. (PC § 626.10)

In addition, California requires a 10-day waiting period and a criminal record check for most gun buyers. (PC § 12071)

Could I get in trouble for simply pointing- a gun at someone?

Yes. It is against the law to threaten anyone with a deadly weapon (except in self-defense) or to carry such a weapon without a license. This includes tear gas weapons, such as mace, which require training and licensing. In addition, using tear gas is a felony unless it is done in self-defense. (PC §§ 245, 12024, 12403.7)

Are there any restrictions on inhere I can practice my shooting?

Yes. You cannot shoot any firearm from or onto a public road or highway in any city. It also is against the law to shoot a. firearm at any house, vehicle, building or aircraft and, of course, at any other human being. (PC §§ 246, 374c)

Do I need a license to hunt?

Yes. In California, you must have a license to hunt any bird or animal. In addition, you will need a "certificate of competence" from a hunter-safety training course to get such a license. (FCC §§ 1054.2, 3031, 3049-3054)

Hate Crimes

A hate crime is a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of one or :more of the following actual or perceived characteristics of the victim: disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or association with any person or group that has one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics. (PC § 422.55) In California, the law also specifically prohibits anyone from damaging property or using force or threats of violence to interfere with someone else's rights because of any of these actual or perceived characteristics. (PC § 422.6)

What are some examples of hate crimes?

Hate crimes take many forms. Such a crime could be a physical assault, an attempted assault or simply the threat of an assault. It could be any crime motivated by the offender's bias (as defined in PC § 422.55). A threatening phone call, a swastika on your dew, a burning cross on your lawn, paint splatters on your car or other damaged property could be evidence of a hate crime. (PC §§190.03, 422.6, 422.7, 594.3, 11410, 11411, 11413) A hate crime is different from a hate incident, which is hate-motivated con¬duct (such as a bigoted insult, taunt or slur) that is protected by the individual's First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

Internet and Computer Crimes

Is downloading information, pictures or music off of the Internet ever against the lazy?
Yes, sometimes. You could get into trouble, for example, if you down¬load sexual pictures of children or young teens. Possession of or control over "child pornography" (any matter depicting a person under the age of 18 engaged in or simulating sexual conduct) is a crime. The first offense is punishable by up to one year in county jail or state prison and a $2,500 fine. The second offense requires state prison time. And if you are convict¬ed of possessing (or attempting to possess) such material, you would have to register as a sex offender for life. So, any e-mail with an attached photo of child pornography should be deleted immediately. (PC §§ 290, 311.11)

In addition, it is illegal to download certain other material as well. See the Computers, the Internet and Theft on the next page.

The law prohibits:

  • Pirating or downloading copyrighted material (such as music) without authorization. (PC § 502(c), 653h) Under federal law, criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
  • Accessing someone else's computer without authorization. (PC § 502(a)(b)(1))
  • Devising and executing schemes to obtain money, property or services with false or fraudulent intent through a computer. (PC 502(c)(1))
  • Deleting, damaging or destroying systems, networks, pro¬grams, databases or components of computers without authorization. (PC § 502(c)(4))
  • Disrupting or denying access to the authorized users of a computer. (PC§ 502(c)(5))
  • introducing contaminants or viruses to a computer. (PC §§ 502, 502(c)(8))

Christopher J McCann

Call: (888) 360-4-CJM to get your free case review!
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