A friend of the family called last spring, frantic. In another county, her son had been at a loud High School party. The young man, who had drunk way too much, was in the street when the local police arrived. The police arrested him for being intoxicated in a public place.
Mom told me, “He was booked into jail. They told him he would be charged with a misdemeanor. Will he be charged as an adult?” Mom said that most of the teens at the party were sixteen and seventeen year olds but her son, and a handful of others were eighteen years old.
Yes indeed, I explained, the young man was now an adult and there might be many consequences if he was convicted. “That is just not fair,” Mom protested. “He just turned eighteen two week s ago. It’s still two weeks until he graduates from High School.” I explained that when a young person turns eighteen they are treated by the law as adults with the responsibilities and the duties of adulthood.
For several years members of the Kern County Bar Association have spoken at local High Schools about how the law treats those over eighteen years of age. Like the friend of my family, many young people are unaware of the significant changes that take place “in the eyes of the law,” when somebody turns eighteen.
To continue to help educate our local young adults about the many important changes in legal status that their eighteenth birthday brings, the Kern County Bar Association Foundation, through the generous work of local attorneys and educators has produced a class period long DVD entitled, “You’re 18? YOU’RE AN ADULT!” On October 1, the Kern County Bar Association Foundation will donate copies of the DVD to each High School in the Kern High School District. Teachers will be able to use the DVD to help better prepare High School students for adulthood.
In 2000 your local Kern County Bar Association created the Foundation to enhance public trust in the legal system and the legal profession, and to recognize, promote, and encourage professionalism, equal access to justice, and public awareness of the role of judges and lawyers in our community. The Foundation has focused on youth over the years with, as example, regular support of our county’s Mock Trial Competition and the “Open Doors to Federal Courts” program - which provides speakers from federal agencies to address 250 local high school students.
In “You’re 18? YOU’RE AN ADULT!” Deputy District Attorney Vikki Del Pellegrino and Deputy Public Defender Teryl Wakeman address a class of West High students (a few in the class had recently turned eighteen). Both the speakers and the students have a lively discussion about many of the privileges, rights, duties, responsibilities and consequences that are incumbent upon eighteen year olds. For instance, as Vikki Del Pellegrino explains, eighteen year olds can legally enter a contract. So too, can they now be sued for not abiding by the terms of the contract.
As Teryl Wakeman points out so well, “The responsibilities of being a citizen go hand in hand with the rights…you don’t get one without the other.”
The Kern County Bar Association Foundation hopes that “You’re 18? YOU’RE AN ADULT!” becomes a well used tool in our local high schools. The DVD will also be available at through KETN, the Kern County Law Library, and at our local public libraries.