BECOMING AN ADULT Your Legal Rights and Responsibilities at Age 18 Illinois State Bar Association Jackson County Bar Association
When do I become an “adult?” In Illinois, you become an adult for most purposes when you turn 18.
What are some new rights after turning age 18? • You have the right to: • Vote & serve on a jury • Make a will • Sue in your own name • Make a contract (rent an apartment, buy a car, take out a loan) • Get medical treatment • Be completely independent from your parents • Apply for credit in your own name • Get married, without parental consent
What Are Some Responsibilities That You Have After Age 18? • You are considered an adult for misdemeanor offenses when you turn 18, and for felony charges at age 17. • Generally, parents no longer have to support you (there are some exceptions for divorced parents). • Others may sue you on contracts you make. • If you are a male, you must register for the military draft. • You may be sued for child support.
Driving is not a right; it is a privilege that the State can regulate, or even take away! • Once you turn 18, your parents are usually not liable for your accidents. • If you own a motor vehicle registered in Illinois, you must insure the vehicle against liability for collision. • It is illegal to let someone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs drive your car. It is also illegal for anyone to drink alcohol in your car, or to have an open container in the passenger area of the car.
Cell Phone Use & Driving • Drivers under age 19 are prohibited from using cell phones while driving – even if they are hands-free! • The one exception is for an emergency to call the police, hospital, fire department, or other emergency agency. • All drivers are prohibited from text messaging and related activities, such as emailing and internet use. • The one exception is in an emergency situation if it is a hands-free device or while stopped on the side of the road. • All drivers are prohibited from using cell phones in school speed zones, construction or road maintenance zones, and within 500 feet of emergency scenes.
In Illinois, the minimum legal drinking age is 21. • Underage people violate the law by drinking or possessing alcohol, lying about their age to buy alcohol, having a fake I.D., driving a motor vehicle with any alcohol in their system, and other ways. • If you are under age 21 and are caught drinking, you may lose your driver’s license for three months to two years. • Penalties for violating Illinois’ drinking laws are serious, and may include fines, or jail or prison time. • They also include loss of your driver’s license. • There are similar penalties for drug-related offenses.
What Are My Employment Rights? • Unless you have an employment contract, you can usually be fired at any time for any reason or for no reason. There are exceptions - you cannot be fired for a discriminatory reason, such as race or religion, or because you complained about the employer to a government agency, or for certain other reasons. • Your employer does not have to give you a warning before firing you unless he or she has agreed to do so. • A written contract may limit your employer’s ability to fire you. Many employees do not have an employment contract. • If your employer fails to pay you, you can file a wage claim with the Illinois Department of Labor. • There are many Illinois and federal laws protecting employees. These laws do things like regulate safety of the workplace and ensure payment of the minimum wage.
Consumer Protection Laws: • Require lenders to tell you the truth about credit costs and contract terms. • Prohibit companies from sending you credit cards that you didn’t ask for and limit your liability for the unauthorized use of such cards. • Require credit reporting agencies to give you access to your credit records, allow you to dispute information there, and reinvestigate any disputed information. • Forbid anyone from refusing to give you credit based on race, sex, marital status, etc. • Prohibit sellers from using false or misleading statements, and give you rights to cancel certain contracts within a certain period of time.
Credit is generally when someone gives a loan to someone else and does not require immediate repayment, which creates a debt that will be repaid over time. • A credit rating is supposed to measure your ability to repay a debt. Lenders use credit ratings to decide whether to loan money and what the terms will be. • You can get a good credit rating by having a savings account, buying low-priced items on time, getting a job and responsibly using credit cards. • A bad credit rating can affect your ability to get a loan for things like a car, or house, or college, and can mean that you are offered less favorable terms. • If you don’t have a good credit rating, you may be asked to give something of value as collateral, such as your house or car. If you are unable to repay the loan, the lender may take the collateral.
When you turn 18, you can legally enter into contracts for employment, loans, leases, insurance, medical care, and credit. • Not all contracts are in writing. If you sign a written contract, make sure you keep a copy of the signed contract. • Before you enter into any contract, make sure you understand its terms. Be especially careful if someone asks you to sign a contract without reading it. Don’t be intimidated by aggressive salespeople or taken in by friendly ones! Don’t sign any contract that has blank spaces in it! • Remember that you are responsible for the contract. If you do not make payments or meet other obligations of the contract, the other person can enforce the contract, which could include suing you in court.
What Is A Lease? • A lease is a contract between you and owner of the apartment, the landlord. If you rent a room, a house, or an apartment, you are called a tenant. • When you turn 18, you will be legally responsible for any lease that you sign. • Leases for less than a year do not have to be written, but a written lease can provide greater protection. • A lease may require you to pay a security deposit, which is money you give the landlord in addition to rent at the start of the lease term in case you damage the apartment or don’t pay rent.
Before you sign a lease: • Read it carefully, make sure you understand the terms, and don’t leave any blank spaces unfilled. Perhaps talk to a lawyer before you sign the lease. • Make sure any promises the landlord makes are added to the written lease. • Understand how much rent you will pay and when, who pays for utilities, who mows the grass, and if it’s okay to have a pet. • If you sign a lease, keep an exact copy of the lease that is signed by you and the landlord. • Before you rent, visit the apartment, note its condition, and tell the landlord in writing about any damage or repairs needed. Keep a copy of your list. Photograph the apartment before you move in.
What Happens If I’m Arrested? • Once you turn 17, you will be tried as an adult in any felony criminal matters, or 18 for misdemeanor criminal matters. • If arrested, you can expect to be searched for weapons and taken to the police station. You may be advised of your rights. • You have the right not to answer questions from the police and to have a lawyer present. Once you ask for a lawyer, the police are not supposed to question you further. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one for you. • You can choose to answer questions, sign papers or take tests. Remember that information you give voluntarily can be used as evidence against you in court. • After you are arrested and processed, you must be brought before the judge within a “reasonable time.” This is usually 48 hours, unless it’s a weekend. You may also have to pay bail, a specific amount of money, to be released from jail.
When Can I Marry Without My Parents’ Consent? • When you turn 18, you can get married or enter into a civil union without your parents’ consent. • If you lie about your age to get married and you are under age 18, the marriage will be void. • You can get a marriage license from the county clerk’s office for an application fee. The license expires in 60 days. • A marriage or civil union ceremony must be performed by an authorized official, such as a clergyperson or a judge, in the county where the license is issued.
Child Support • A parent can be required to support his or her child, even if the parents are not married. • If a parent refuses or fails to pay child support, the parent’s income can be withheld for the amount owed, and the parent can be held in contempt of court and put in jail. • A parent can request visitation with or custody of his or her child even though the parents are not married. • A parent’s rights and duties to his or her child can be terminated by the court under certain circumstances, such as where the parent neglects or abuses the child. • If the parents are not married, custody is presumed in the mother unless the child is in physical care of the father for 6 months.
Relationships • If you are 17 or older, it is illegal for you to have a sexual relationship with someone who is under 17. • You cannot send or receive photographs containing nudity via texts, Facebook, or otherwise, if one of the people in the photographs is under age 17. If you do, you could be charged with child pornography. • Penalties can include jail, prison, registration as a sex offender and fines.
Do I Need A Parent’s Consent to See A Doctor? • Once you turn 18, you can consent to medical and dental procedures, and you can refuse medical treatment, even if your parents disagree, and even if death will be the certain result of your decision. • At age 18, you can go to a clinic on your own and get counseling or birth control. • At age 18, you can consent to drug or alcohol counseling, or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and mental health. The medical provider cannot inform your parents or guardians without your consent.
At age 18, you can refuse medical treatment, even if your parents disagree, and even if death will be the certain result of your decision. • In certain circumstances, you can obtain drug or alcohol counseling, or treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and mental health, or other services, even though you are under age 18. The medical provider cannot inform your parents or guardians without your consent.
If you receive treatment, you will be responsible for the cost of the sessions. • A pregnant woman can consent to treatment even if she is under age 18. • The mother and father of a child can consent to treatment of the child, even if one or both of the parents are under age 18.
What Are The Requirements For Voting? • You must be 18 years old, • A U.S. citizen, and • A resident of IL for 30 days before the election.
Where Do You Register To Vote? • Students can register at school. Illinois law allows a school principal or a person designated by the principal to register students from that school. • You may also register to vote at the local office of the Secretary of State (driver’s license facility).
Who Is Required To Register For The Draft? • If you are a male citizen or male alien residing in the U.S. you must register within 30 days after your 18th birthday. • You may register earlier -- up to 120 days before your 18th birthday. • This process is known as Selective Service registration.
How Do I Qualify For Jury Duty? • You must be 18 or older, • A U.S. Citizen, • Able to understand English (however, there are translators – so you might still serve), and • Live in the jurisdiction where you are called to serve.