Laws for 18 year olds

Updated April 17, 2017

Turning 18 years of age marks a milestone in your life. It's accompanied by new privileges and responsibilities, and also serious consequences for getting caught breaking the law.

Voting and Taxes

Upon turning 18, you can vote in state and federal elections. If you have started working, your income will trigger the requirement for paying taxes. Before you turn 18, your parents can choose to include your income on their tax return, so you don't have to file. After you turn 18, you are on your own to file your state and federal income taxes and pay them on time.

Jury Duty and National Service

Eighteen-year-olds are eligible for jury duty and National Selective Service. Males must register for the service. Failure to register could result in a fine or prison time. Registration forms are at the post office.


As an 18-year-old, you can't rent a car, but you can buy one. Being 18 allows you to buy real estate, receive an inheritance, enter into contracts such as marriage, get a divorce and be sued.


As an 18-year-old, you are free to gamble away your money, incur credit card debt and make foolish investments. Parents cannot access their child's credit card balance or current account status. Your finances are just as private as theirs. No college or bank will divulge your private account information to your parents without your permission. Most colleges offer students the option of allowing their parents access to tuition and housing bills.

Educational and Medical Records

As an 18-year-old and preparing or attending college, your parents no longer have legal control over your academic records. Parents cannot access your academic records, or inquire about your relationships with professors. Your parents can't discuss your health, sexual activity or substance abuse with your doctor. Under the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA, your health records are between you and your health care provider.


Teenage pranks, youthful misdeeds, or juvenile offences that once might have only infuriated your parents or tested the patience of police can now lead to serious civil and criminal charges and land you in jail. Enforcement of statutory rape laws vary considerably from state to state. What is allowed in one state could mean prison time in others. Check your state laws on statutory rape and the age of consent (See Resources).

Driving Freedoms

Many states have enacted the Graduated Driver Licensing law restricting the hours and terms under which new drivers can get behind the wheel, but all driving restrictions stemming from this law are lifted at the age of 18. As an 18-year-old, you can drive at any hour and drive alone or carry friends in the middle of the night.

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About the Author

Lucy Bowles is an avid freelance writer from Indianapolis. She has written for various websites since 2009. As a certified paralegal Bowles has worked in the areas of business, intellectual property and entertainment law. She has a bachelor's degree in history and a minor in legal studies from Indiana University.