Saturday, April 6, 2013

Kids & the Law (in California) Part 2

We are always looking for ways to protect our children. When they're babies we use baby gates and child locks. We give our young children swimming lessons and tell them not to run with scissors or not to go with strangers. Our teens get curfews, driving lessons and internet regulations. Even now, my father can't help but remind me to lock my car doors and renew my insurance policies.

But what about the law? There are tons of laws that pertain to our children and many of them carry serious consequences if violated. Part 1 explored some of them and now -- in Part 2, I try to cover a bunch more. 


  • Your teen drivers must have car insurance. You can add them to your own policy but that can be expensive. Another option is to get them insured in their own right. They can keep this policy as they age. Policy coverage minimums are as follows: 
    • $15,000 for the injury or death of one person per accident
    • $30,000 for the injury or death of two or more people
    • $5,000 for property damage per accident. 
  • Children ages 6 and under cannot be left alone in a car if keys are still in the ignition. Someone age 12 or older must stay behind to supervise them. 
  • Children driving without a license. A teen caught driving without a valid driver's license or permit can be subject to a misdemeanor. Your child must also have her license in their possession while driving. Driving with a suspended or revoked license could leda to jail time and/or a fine up to $1,000 (for a first conviction).
  • Upon a second violation of a curfew law, parents can be charged for the administration and transportation costs associated with returning a child to his parents. 
  • If you don't know the curfew laws pertaining to your locale (usually 10pm with some exceptions), call your local police department.
  • It's a misdemeanor to tattoo or even offer a tattoo to a child.
  • Possessing 28.5 grams of marijuana or less is a misdemeanor under state law. If your child is found with more than an ounce at school or cultivating pot -- the consequences are more serious.
  • It is illegal for a child to be anywhere (even a party) where controlled substances are being used if she is participating or assisting others in their use. 
  • Emancipation: A child becomes emancipated from their parents when they marry or are on active duty in the military. Otherwise, it's much more difficult. A child 14 or older can petition the court for emancipation but must notify his parents/guardian, prove that the decision is voluntary, have parental consent or acquiescence to manager her affairs, prove he can make money and how expenses will be handled. The judge must also find that it is in the child's best interest. In some instances, the order for emancipation can be rescinded.
  • Fighting (except for proving it was in self defense) is no joke in California. Gone are the days where we let 'boys be boys' and fight out their agression. While police can simply escort the child home, more often they will be arrested and could face charges of assault and battery or disturbing the peace. 
  • A child who distracts a professional athlete or interfere's with a professional sporting event by throwing an object onto or across the field -- will be breaking the law. 
  • The law defines graffiti as an unauthorized inscription, word, figure, mark or design that is written marked, etched, scratched, drawn or painted on real or personal property. Graffiti is considered vandalism and it is against the law. Punishment can include jail or prison and fines as much as $50,000. The tagger may also be ordered to clean up, repair or replace damaged property or have their license suspended (or delayed for three years beyond the date they would have been eligible to drive). My understanding is that sometimes suspensions can be delayed or reduced via community service or graffiti clean up.
  • It is a misdemeanor for anyone to sell, give or furnish a child with any etching cream or aerosol can of paint that could be used to deface property. It's also a misdemeanor for any child to purchase these materials. 
  • Parents of gang members can be prosecuted and held criminally liable for their child's gang related activities. 
  • Kids cannot leave their pet tethered for longer than 3 hours in a 24 hour period or they will be breaking the law.
  • Parents who know or should have known that their child engages in improper conduct, or who aid in such conduct may be held liable for their child's acts. Specific statutes hold parents liable for certain harm caused by their kids such as -- injuries from guns, willful misconduct, graffiti, tear gas injuries, truancy fines (sometimes $100 for the fourth violation), shoplifting and curfew violations.
What if your child is approached, questioned or arrested by the police?
Teach them to follow these tips:
  • Do not resist arrest. Struggling with the police can be charged as a separate crime even if your child is innocent of the underlying crime.
  • Respectfully decline permission to search. Just like adults, kids have 4th amendment protections from unreasonable search and seizure.
  • Remain silent: After giving their name, address, phone number and parents' names, have them remain quiet until they speak with you and/or a criminal defense attorney. 
  • Show up to their court date
  • Don't talk to friends or acquaintances about the case specifics. You don't want cops to be able to use those third party statements in court!

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