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Legal Rules for Teenagers

By 11 April 2013Criminal Law, Youth Law

These days, most young people are aware of their rights, and the law does its best to make sure young people who front the justice system are properly cared for.

Parents are generally seen as legal guardians, but once past the age of 16 most States will allow a young person the freedom to choose where they live.

If parenting orders have been made by a family court, these no longer apply past the age of 18 years.

The following advice may vary between the States:

If a young person is under 10 years of age, they cannot be charged with a criminal offence.

Between 10 and 13 years of age, charges can be laid, however the onus is on the prosecution to prove that the child understood that the action was wrong, and was a criminal act. Between 14 years and 18 years ( depending on the State ) it is assumed that a young person understands right from wrong, but is still dealt with in the juvenile justice system.

In some States, anyone over 17 years old is dealt with as an adult in the criminal justice system .

If a young person gets into trouble there are three ways they can be brought before the Children’s Court.

  • A notice to appear issued by a police officer ( Your parents will be informed )
  • A complaint and summons issued by a police officer ( Your parents will be informed )
  • Arrest and detention. This is normally only in case of a serious offence, and custody would usually be a last resort. ( Parents would be informed )

In the case of a young person getting into trouble, there may be options separate from the criminal justice system.

  • The police may choose to take no action for a minor offence.
  • The police may issue a caution or formal warning.
  • The young person may be required to attend youth justice conferencing.

In any of these situations, particularly if a parent or guardian is not available, a young person should always seek legal help.

If a court appearance is required it is a good idea to talk to a lawyer. Duty lawyers are usually available at most courts in Australia and can give legal advice.

There are many organisations to help young people with information: State Law Societies, Community legal centres, Legal Aid, Youth Advocacy centres, Lifeline, Salvation Army, Kids Helpline.