Teenager survival guide | SierraSun.com

Teenager survival guide

A word to teenagers now that you are 18.

Your parents are not legally required to support you any more. You can be personally sued. You may go to war since males must register for the military. You no longer have the protection of juvenile court, and you must now pay state and federal income taxes.

Those words of admonition come from a new booklet funded by The Foundation of the State Bar of California entitled, “When You Become 18 – A Survival Guide for Teenagers.”

This handy-to-use 15-page pamphlet covers just about everything a young person turning 18 needs to know about the law and his or her rights and liabilities.

The sections are organized alphabetically starting with alcohol (may a teenager possess alcohol on any street, highway or public place or be a passenger in a car carrying liquor?) to torts, transportation and voting (does a teenager vote at home or at college and how does he or she get an absentee ballot?).

Here are some samples:


Teenagers (and others) may not drink, sell or give liquor to any person or possess liquor in any public school or on school grounds. If you are under 21 you may not enter and remain in a bar “without lawful business.” Query: does that include doing your homework?

If you borrow a driver’s license or have a phony ID, you are breaking the law. You know that.


Who do you call when you have been arrested and what if you are not given a “Miranda” warning? Is there a right to privacy in a police station? When does the FBI come into a legal matter and what is the difference between state and federal crimes? Can you get a conviction expunged so it is permanently removed from your record?


If you are a victim of domestic violence, how do you obtain a temporary restraining order (TRO)? Is date rape a crime? Answer: yes, a felony. How about downloading Internet child pornography? How about sniffing glue?


What are the rules for buying or owning rifles, shotguns and handguns? How about carrying a loaded firearm on your person or in a vehicle? Can you have brass knuckles? What is a hate crime?


So you are renting your first house. What do you look for in a lease? What kind of notices must the landlord give. Should you have renter’s insurance? If you lose your job, can you walk out on your lease? Must you give formal notice?


When you become 18, you are legally an adult and assume liability for your own traffic violations or accidents. The “buck stops here.” You need insurance. Please don’t get just the minimum coverage of $15,000/30,000, get at least $100,000 and preferably $500,000 minimum coverage. Remember, whoever is on title to the car has limited automatic liability if you are using their car with permission.


The back page of the State Bar pamphlet has a whole section on “How can I find and hire the right lawyer?” as well as telephone numbers for the youth crisis line, contractor’s state license board, federal student aid information center, selective service and voter registration information as well as pamphlets available from the State Bar. I wish the publication had more citations to legal sources, like code sections for further research. Maybe in the next edition.

You may request a copy of this Guide for yourself or a friend on the Internet at barcomm@calbar.ca.gov.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter-Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

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