The term minor is used to refer to a person under a certain age, the age of majority, which legally demarcates childhood from adulthood; the age depends upon jurisdiction and application, but is typically 16, 18, or 21. Minors have the same rights as adults.
The concept of a 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 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 18 years of age, 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.
In many countries, including Australia, (except in Queensland, where it is 17), India, Philippines, United Kingdom, Brazil, Croatia and the country of 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 be used in certain areas (such as gambling 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[citati
United KingdomIn England and Wales and in Northern Ireland a minor is a person under the age of 18 (Family Law Reform Act 1969, section 1); in Scotland, under the age of 16 (Age of legal capacity, Scotland 1991). 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.
In England and Wales, cases of minors breaking the law are often dealt with by the Youth Offending Team. If they are incarcerated, they will be sent to a youth detention centre.
The age of majority is 16 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, viewing, hiring, or 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.
United StatesIn the United States as of 1995, minor is legally defined as a person under the age of 15, although, in the context of alcohol, people under the age of 21 may be referred to as "minors"., 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.
In eleven states, including Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, South Carolina, and Texas, a "juvenile" is legally defined as a person under seventeen., In two states, New York and North Carolina, "juvenile" refers to a person under sixteen. In other states a juvenile is legally defined as a person under eighteen.,
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 [Gaines, Larry K and Roger Leroy Miller. "Criminal Justice in Action" 4th ed., Thompson Wadsworth Publishing, 2007. Pg 495]. 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 cannot be incarcerated with adult inmates, 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 facilities. As with the adult system, the juvenile justice system has become more and more punitive over time, despite a juvenile's lack of right to a jury in juvenile court, often lower brain development (because of their youth), and evidence that incarceration and even probation lead to a higher incidence of reoffending for juveniles than non-punitive consequences.
The death penalty in the U.S. for those who committed a crime while under the age of 21 was discontinued by the U.S. Supreme Court Case Roper v. Simmons in 2005 . 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 age of consent for sexual activity is often lower than the age of majority, frequently using a graduated scale based on the difference in age between the participants. There is an absolute minimum age, however, varying from state to state, below which a minor may not consent. The lowest age for a legal marriage also varies by state, ranging from sixteen to seventeen.
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 US 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 ACLU.