Teens and the Law

Each state has particular laws that deal with acts committed by youth and adults. Just because someone is under a certain age (16 in New York State) and considered a juvenile does not mean that laws do not apply to them. A criminal record can affect you later in life. If you have a record, some schools or employers may not accept you. What you might think is a harmless prank or "no big deal", could hurt your future.


A simple prank, such as removing hubcaps or spraying graffitti, can bring a serious charge of theft or vandalism against you. You may be arrested. Penalties can include a fine, restitution (pay for damages), probation or jail time.


Taking things that do not belong to you without the permission of the owner is theft. Theft is also referred to as the crime of "stealing".

When items stolen are taken from a store, it is often called "shoplifting". There is no difference between shoplifting and theft.

Drug Laws

The possession or use of marijuana is against the law and penalties include fine, probation or jail. The penalties for offenses involving hard drugs, such as cocaine, speed, heroin and crack or large amounts of marijuana, can be very serious, especially when a federal law is broken. The selling of any illegal drugs is a very serious offense. This is also true of the illegal use, possession or sale of prescription drugs.

Alcohol Laws

It is against the law to serve or permit liquor to be served to minors (under 21) anywhere, including in the home. It is against the law for minors to have alcohol in their possession in a public place or in a car at any time. Anyone over the age of 16 who helps a minor to obtain alcohol can be charged with a felony crime punishable by imprisonment and/or a fine.

Alcohol, Drugs and Driving

In New York State the penalty for a first offense conviction of driving while intoxicated may include jail time, a fine, loss of driving privileges and a requirement to participate in a drug or alcohol treatment program. In addition to the criminal penalties, it is likely that insurance rates of the convicted driver will be higher for a period of up to ten years. Depending on the situation, your parents may be responsible for any penalties, fines or damages.

Vehicular (Car) Injury or Manslaughter

If you are driving while intoxicated and injure or cause the death of another person (manslaughter), you may be charged with a felony crime. If convicted, you may be fined, put on probation and/or imprisoned.

Weapons Laws

Unlawful use of a weapon is a possible felony under New York State law. Using a dangerous weapon in committing a crime can lead to life in prison. The law's definition of a "weapon" includes guns (all types), switchblades, gravity knives, sticks, cane swords, and concealed blades (for example, a razor blade). An item such as a nail file can be viewed by police and the courts as a weapon, depending upon how it is used. A person who is stopped by the police and found to have a gun or other weapon can be arrested and charged with possession of a concealed weapon without the proper permit.


If you, or someone you're with, are stopped or picked up by the police, here are things you need to know.

  • Do not resist arrest. The most important thing to do is cooperate. Your attitude and cooperation will have direct effect on how you are treated.
  • You do not need to say anything to the police in answer to their questions without your parent present (if under 16) and/or advice from an attorney. You will be asked to give the police your name, address, phone number, date of birth, parent or guardian's name and how to reach them. Beyond this, you do not have to volunteer anything.
  • You do not need to sign anything without advice from your parents (if under 16) or an attorney.
  • If you give permission to any search, you are allowing the police to fully search you.
  • You have the right to a lawyer. If you cannot afford one, the court will appoint one for you.
  • Ask the police to call your parents or other adult.

The following organizations will provide information and/or assistance (click on the agency's name for more information):

Geneva Police Department
The department's youth officers work with juvenile deliquency and sometimes petitions to family court for Persons in Need of Supervision.

Legal Assistance of the Finger Lakes
Legal Assistance provides legal representation for people in civil matters for those who meet income requirements.

Ontario County Department of Social Services
(585)396-4060 or (877)814-6907 toll free
The agency's services are geared toward families and include financial assistance and family and children services including child protective, foster care and preventative services.

Juvenile Aid Section Ontario County Sheriff's Office
(585)396-4675; (585)924-7500 or (315)781-1200
The section investigates crimes and offenses committed by persons under 16 years of age, and makes presentations to increase public awareness of crime, health and safety topics.

Ontario County Youth Bureau
The Youth Bureau provides funding to service providers in the community that meet the needs of youth and families.

Ontario County Probation Department
The department provides screening and referral services for youth under age 18 who are referred by schools, parents and police as persons in need of supervision due to truancy, incorrigibility or runaway behavior.

Student Transition and Recovery Program
(585) 396-4482
Challenges faced by the S.T.A.R. program include bullying, truancy, fighting, stealing, disrespect

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