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In law, a minor is a person under a certain age — usually the age of majority — which legally demarcates childhood from adulthood; the age depends upon jurisdiction and application, but is generally 18. "Minor" may also be used in contexts not connected to the overall age of majority; for example, the drinking age in the United States is 21, and people below this age are sometimes referred to as "minors" even if 18.citation needed The term underage is often used to refer to those under the age of majority, but may also refer to persons who are under a certain age limit, such as the drinking age, smoking age, age of consent, marriageable age, driving age, voting age etc., with these age limits often being different than the age of majority.
The concept of "minor" is not sharply defined in most jurisdictions. The ages of criminal responsibility and consent, the age at which attendance at school ceases to be obligatory, the age at which legally binding contracts can be entered into, and so on, may all be different.
In many countries, including Australia, India, Philippines, Brazil, Croatia and Colombia, a minor is defined as a person under the age of 18. In the United States, where the age of majority is set by the individual states, minor usually refers to someone under the age of 18, but can in some states be used in certain areas (such as gambling, gun ownership and the consuming of alcohol) to define someone under the age of 21. In the criminal justice system in some places, "minor" is not entirely consistent, as a minor may be tried and punished for a crime either as a "juvenile" or, usually only for "extremely serious crimes" such as murder, as an "adult"citation needed.
In Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, a minor is a person under 20 years of age. In New Zealand law, a minor is a person under 20 years of age as well, but most of the rights of adulthood are assumed at lower ages: for example, entering into contracts and having a will are legally possible at 15.citation needed]]
For all provincial laws (such as alcohol and tobacco regulation), the provincial and territorial governments have the power to set the age of majority in their respective province or territory, and the age varies across Canada. Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island have the age set at 18, while in British Columbia, Ontario, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick the age of majority is 19. Saskatchewan legal gaming age is 10 while Saskatchewan's legal drinking age is 19.1
For Federal Law (Criminal Code, Voting, etc.), the age of majority is 18.2
In Italy, law nr. 39 of 8 March 1975 states that a minor is a person under the age of 18.3 Citizens under the age of 18 have no right to vote (to vote for senate must be at least 25) and be elected in political elections, are not allowed to obtain a driving license for automobiles nor issue or sign legal instruments. Crimes committed in Italy by minors are tried in a juvenile court.
In England and Wales and in Northern Ireland a minor is a person under the age of 18;4 in Scotland, under the age of 16.5 The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland is 10; and 12 in Scotland, formerly 8 which was the lowest age in Europe.6 7 8
The age of majority is 18 for most purposes including sitting on a jury, voting, standing as a candidate, buying or renting films with an 18 certificate or R18 certificate or seeing them in a cinema, being depicted in pornographic materials, suing without a litigant friend, being civilly liable, accessing adoption records and purchasing alcohol, tobacco products, knives and fireworks. The rules on minimum age for sale of these products are frequently broken so in practice drinking and smoking takes place before the age of majority; however many UK shops are tightening restrictions on them by asking for identifying documentation from potentially underage customers.
Driving certain large vehicles, acting as personal license holder for licensed premises, and adopting a child are only permitted after the age of 21. The minimum age to drive a HGV1 vehicle was reduced to 18. However, certain vehicles, e.g. steam rollers, require you to be of 21 years of age before being allowed to obtain a license for this type.
In the United States as of 1995, minor is legally defined as a person under the age of 18, although 21 with the context of alcohol; people under the age of 21 may be referred to as "minors".citation needed However, not all minors are considered "juveniles" in terms of criminal responsibility. As is frequently the case in the United States, the laws vary widely by state.
Under this distinction, those considered juveniles are usually tried in juvenile court, and they may be afforded other special protections. For example, in some states a parent or guardian must be present during police questioning, or their names may be kept confidential when they are accused of a crime. For many crimes (especially more violent crimes), the age at which a minor may be tried as an adult is variable below the age of 18 or (less often) below 16.11 For example, in Kentucky, the lowest age a juvenile may be tried as an adult, no matter how heinous the crime, is 14.
In most states, juveniles may not be incarcerated with adult inmates,citation needed even if the child is charged as an adult. This is also discouraged by the federal government, which prefers funding only if children and adults are housed in separate facilitiescitation needed.
The death penalty for those who have committed a crime while under the age of 18 was discontinued by the U.S. Supreme Court Case Roper v. Simmons in 2005.12 The court's 5–4 decision was written by Justice Kennedy and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Stevens, Breyer, and Souter, and cited international law, child developmental science, and many other factors in reaching its conclusion.
The twenty-sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1971, granted all citizens the right to vote in every state, in every election, from the age of 18.
The U.S. Department of Defense took the position that they would not consider the "enemy combatants" they held in extrajudicial detention in the Guantanamo Bay detainment camps to be minors unless they were less than sixteen years old.verification needed In the event they only separated three of the more than a dozen detainees who were under 16 from the adult prison population. All the several dozen detainees who were between sixteen and eighteen years of age were detained with the adult prison population. Now those under 18 are kept separate in line with the age of majority and world expectations.
Some states, including Florida, have passed laws allowing a person who commits an extremely heinous crime such as murder to be tried as an adult, regardless of age. These laws, however, have faced the challenges of the American Civil Liberties Union. An estimated 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year across the United States.13
- Age of Majority Table
- Youth Criminal Justice Act
- "Italie". Wipo Lex. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
- Family Law Reform Act 1969, section 1
- Age of legal capacity, Scotland 1991
- [Gaines, Larry K and Roger Leroy Miller. "Criminal Justice in Action" 4th ed., Thompson Wadsworth Publishing, 2007. Pg 495]
- Roper v. Simmons (No. 03-633) | LII / Legal Information Institute
- Campaign for Youth Justice, Key Facts: Youth in the Justice System. Washington, D.C.: Campaign for Youth Justice, 2007. Web. May 2011. Citing Woolard, J. “Juveniles within Adult Correctional Settings: Legal Pathways and Developmental Considerations.” International Journal of Forensic Mental Health 4.1 (2005):http://www.campaignforyouthjustice.org/documents/KeyYouthCrimeFacts.pdf