What You Can Legally Do When You're 18

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

When you become 18 years old, you have reached a milestone in your life. At age 18 you will have most of the legal rights and responsibilities of adulthood. There are some age restricted legal rights, such as buying and drinking alcohol, which will come when you are 21 years old. Understanding your rights and responsibilities will help to establish yourself as a respected and valuable member of your community.


1. The 26th amendment to the Constitution, enacted on July 1, 1971, established the legal voting age for Americans as 18, www.truethevote.org/resources/faq/.../legal-age-for-voting. You can vote in all national and local elections once you are registered to vote.

2. You can work full time. If you work for a company that has heavy equipment or provides transportation services that requires special driving permits; you can now train for and acquire a special driving license.

3. You can purchase and use tobacco products in 46 of the 50 states and in the District of Columbia. Alabama, Alaska, New Jersey and Utah require someone to be 19 years of age to purchase tobacco, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoking_Age.

4. The federal government has established 18 as the age of consent to legally engage in sexual activities with another person aged 18 or older. The age of consent may be younger or older according to you state’s law, http://www.age-of-consent.info/.

5. You can establish a checking and savings account and apply for loans. Having a job may be a requirement for loan approvals.

6. You can get credit cards and establish your credit worthiness by paying your bills on time.

7. You can get married without parental approval in 48 of the 50 states. Mississippi requires you to be 21 and Nebraska requires you to be 19 before you can get married without parental consent.


1. If you are a male, you are required to register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of turning 18. According to the law, www.sss.gov/default.htm, you can be prosecuted if you do not register. If convicted, you can fined up to $250,000 and/or spend up to 5 years in jail.

2. As a legal adult, you are now responsible for your actions. If you violate any law, you will be charged as an adult.

3. You can be selected for jury duty.

4. You are legally obligated to pay all debts you incur.

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