The Law Dictionary

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What Can You Do at 18 Legally?

Turning 18 is a milestone for any young adult, from gaining legal rights and responsibilities to feeling a newfound sense of freedom and maturity. While it’s an exciting time in any person’s life, it’s important to understand exactly what factors change when you turn 18 in order to establish yourself as a respected and valuable member of your community. From purchasing fireworks to registering to vote, here’s what you can legally do when you’re 18:

What Can You Do at 18 Legally?

If you’re nearing the age of 18, you have likely seen the meme circulating on social media that says “don’t grow up, it’s a trap.” Maybe you rolled your eyes or became overcome with fear — but either way, adulthood is inevitable. And while most 18-year-olds in the United States still live with their parents, they are legally allowed to do many new things upon entering adulthood. It is important to keep in mind that the responsibilities and consequences of being 18 are much more severe than they were as a minor. You are legally responsible for all of your actions, assets, and decisions. Cheers to 18 years!

1. Vote

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

2. Join the Military

As a legal adult, you can enlist or be drafted into a branch of the military.

3. Donate Blood and Become an Organ Donor

To help save the lives of others, you can register to donate blood, as well as become an organ donor.

4. Work Full Time

As a minor, you were only allowed to work a certain about of hours at your job because of child labor laws. But as a legal adult, you can work full-time and overtime.

5. Play the Lottery

From scratch-off tickets to the Powerball, anyone 18 and older can play the lottery.

 6. Obtain Special Driving Permits

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

7. Purchase and Use Tobacco Products (in Some States)

The legal age to buy tobacco products has recently changed from 18 to 21 in some states across the US, but the majority of states have kept it at 18 years old. States that have changed the age to 21 include Hawaii, California, New Jersey, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts, as well as 350 cities.

8. Drive Late at Night

Most states have a legal curfew for minors when it comes to the time they are able to be out driving at night. If pulled over past a certain hour, a person under 18 would receive a traffic violation.

9. Consent to Having Sex With Someone That Is 18 or Older

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 your state’s law.

10. Establish a Checking and Savings Account and Apply for Loans

Having a job may be a requirement for loan approvals.

11. Apply for Credit Cards and Establish Your Creditworthiness by Paying Your Bills on Time

Credit card companies are known to target the younger crowd. You can apply for your first credit card without a cosigner once you turn 18.

12. Get Piercings or Tattoos Without Parental Permission

Before eighteen, you have to have a parent accompany you when you go to get a tattoo or piercing.

13. Change Your Birth Name

If you aren’t happy with the name your mom and dad gave you when you were born, you can now name yourself something different by filing a petition in the local civil court.

14. File a Lawsuit

Anyone who is 18 years or older and mentally competent can file a lawsuit.

15. Get Married

When you turn 18, 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.

16. Adopt

Legally, you can adopt both a puppy and a child when you turn 18. Your likelihood of getting approved for either, however, is another story.

17. Create Your Will

While it seems like a far stretch, it’s a great idea to develop a Will earlier in life to ensure your assets are accounted for if anything were to happen to you.

18. Buy Spray Paint, Fireworks, and Adult Videos

For obvious reasons (graffiti, safety, etc.), there are certain items you cannot buy until you turn 18 years old.

19. Purchase a House and a Vehicle

Now that you can apply for a loan and work full-time, you can also purchase more expensive investments like land, a home, or a vehicle.

20. Move Out of Your Parents’ Home

Unless you apply for emancipation, you are legally supposed to be living at home with your parents until you are of age to move out.

Responsibilities of Turning 18

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, you can be prosecuted if you do not register. If convicted, you can be fined up to $250,000 and/or spend up to five 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.

What’s Still Restricted When You Turn 18?

While turning 18 comes with many new opportunities, rights, and responsibilities, there are a few restrictions that have yet to be lifted, like purchasing and drinking alcohol (21 years old), purchasing tobacco products in some states (21 years old), going to a casino (21 years old), and renting a vehicle (20 to 25 years old).

For more details on your rights and responsibilities as a legal adult, check out additional information on Privileges of Turning 18.

Need Legal Advice?

Now that you’ve turned 18, the stakes are higher. If you have a legal matter that you need help with, get a free case evaluation from a local attorney.


This article contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. The Law Dictionary is not a law firm, and this page does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.