Legal rights and responsibilities for young people

Legal rights and responsibilities for young people

The information on this page is about common legal issues for young people in Victoria.

Know your legal do’s and don’ts. Understand your rights. Look after yourself and your friends.

Young people and police

Laws that apply to adults also apply to people aged 17 and under. However, in some circumstances the police must treat young people differently. There are special conditions for people under 18 about things like fingerprinting and being questioned by police.

See Young people and police.

Alcohol and fake IDs

It’s an offence to pretend to be over 18 to buy alcohol or enter a place licensed to sell alcohol.

Altering an ID card to make it look like you’re 18 or older or giving someone else a fake ID is also against the law. It’s also illegal to let someone else use your own ID.

In a lot of public places, it’s an offence to have or drink alcohol. It’s illegal to be drunk in public.

If the police pick you up, they may give you an on-the-spot fine or lock you up in custody. They’ll probably take your alcohol off you too.

Read more about underage drinking.

Public behaviour

There are also laws about how you behave in public. For example it is against the law to behave in public:

  • in a disorderly way
  • in an offensive way (swearing or using abusive language)
  • in a threatening or violent way (including using threatening language).

It is also against the law to urinate in public. You could get a fine if the police catch you.

You don’t need someone to complain about you to get into trouble. The police can charge you if they believe you’re committing a public nuisance act.

Read more about behaviour in public that is against the law.

Having consensual sex

You and your partner must both consent to having sex – that means agreeing voluntarily and with a clear mind. This is more than just saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It’s also about these things:

  • being the legal age to consent
  • feeling safe – having sex without pressure or fear
  • understanding – being sober and drug-free, being awake and in control, and not having a mental or physical disability that’s so severe that it prevents you from understanding what’s going on 
  • not being from the same family – this includes half siblings and step siblings.

Always double-check that the person you want to have sex with is sober and is comfortable with the decision to have sex.

The legal definition of ‘having sex’ isn’t just about penetration. It also includes masturbation and fingering, oral sex, anal sex and sexual touching (touching breasts and other sexual body parts). See Sex and the law.

You also need to be legally mature enough to consent to a sexual relationship. The law sets clear age limits for having sex.

If you are thinking about having sex, you need to understand your rights and the law, as well as the physical and emotional consequences. You may need information about getting contraception and dealing with unplanned pregnancy.

Sexual harassment and assault

Sexual assault is an offence.

Sexual harassment can be a form of sexual assault. This includes anything that makes you or another person feel uncomfortable, offended, intimidated or humiliated. It can include unwelcome sexual attention, unwanted sexual touching, staring, wolf-whistling, dirty jokes and requests for sex.

Naked ‘selfies’

It’s illegal to film or photograph people having sex without their consent.

If you create, possess or transmit (send or forward) images of people under 18 having sex or posing in sexually explicit ways, this could be child pornography.

Taking part in child pornography is illegal. You could get into very serious trouble with the law for creating, possessing or transmitting it, even if everyone involved in the photos or videos wanted to do it. You might end up on the sex offenders’ registration (if found guilty, anyone over 18 definitely will).

If you get an explicit image or video of anyone who looks even remotely like they might be under 18, always delete it. Even images and videos stored in your inbox are illegal.

Read more about sexting and child pornography.

Bullying online or at school

Bullying is never ok. In the most severe cases, bullying behaviours can now be treated as a crime in Victoria. This includes bullying over the internet or via mobile phone.

Read more about bullying online or at school

Driving

There are a range of laws to do with the different types of traffic offences. This includes special laws apply to learner and probationary drivers and hoon driving (reckless driving behaviour that puts the public at risk). 

Criminal records

If you have been found guilty of a criminal offence, it will be included in a police record of your criminal history, also known as a criminal record. You may also get a criminal driving record from VicRoads for traffic offences.

Having a criminal record or sex offenders’ registration can have bad consequences for your future – your relationships, employment and travelling overseas.

Child abuse and neglect

The law says that young people must be protected from harm, including child abuse and neglect

If someone believes that you are at risk of being hurt or neglected they can tell the Department of Human Services. 

Read more about what may happen if the Department of Human Services becomes involved with you and your family.

Work

If you have a job you should understand your legal rights and responsibilities as a worker, including employment contracts and conditions, entitlements and workplace safety.

There are also laws about employing young people under the age of 15. Employers can be fined if they don’t comply with these conditions.

Public transport

If you are getting around by train, bus or tram, you should be aware of the laws relating to ticketing and behaviour on public transport.

More information

For more information about the law and how we can help you call Legal Help on 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8.45 am to 5.15 pm.

You can also download ​Am I old enough? – a booklet about what you legally can and can't do because of your age.

Some other helpful websites inlcude: