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Laws do not only play a role in the lives of adults. Kids, too, must abide by certain rules to avoid coming into conflict with the law. Law and order regulate how people live together and ensure that our everyday lives function. If that were not the case, chaos would reign in our world and everyone would do whatever they thought of.
Basically, you should never do anything that could harm others. Always act according to your conscience and follow your teachers and role models. If you do this, you are usually on the safe side. Still, there are some things to keep in mind that you may remember. Read on to learn more.
What Is Forbidden, What Is Allowed?
The following tips apply to most European countries. For very specific legal information, you should seek the advice of an adult or research the law in your country on the Internet. We cannot list here all the crimes that exist. However, we would like to inform you about the most common violations of the law committed by kids and teenagers.
Adults have many freedoms that children do not have for the time being. These include smoking cigarettes, cigarillos and cigars. Kids and teens are not allowed to buy or consume these things. In most countries, this applies to kids under the age of 16.
By the way, tobacconists or vendors are also liable to prosecution if they sell you cigarettes even though you are too young for them.
Many kids forge their parents’ signatures for various reasons. They don’t want their parents to see a bad grade, they sign school letters, or they write themselves an excuse to skip school. Some kids “copy” their parents’ signature if they forget to give them the notebook or the piece of paper to be signed. To avoid getting scolded by the teacher, they simply sign it themselves.
You may think there’s nothing wrong with that. After all, it’s just a matter of a signature. But in fact, this is forgery. That makes you liable to prosecution. You may have to go to the police and later to court.
If you have shown good overall behavior in school so far, the first time you are caught forging, there will not yet be any heavy penalties. In any case, there will be a discussion with your parents at the principal’s office. If you are caught falsifying documents repeatedly, you will probably be expelled from school.
In addition to writing excuses yourself, the following are also considered forgery:
Falsifying IDs (changing birth dates) or using someone else’s ID.
Forging or altering someone’s driver’s license.
Using other people’s health insurance cards yourself at the doctor’s office.
Piercing And Tattoo
As a human being, you are allowed to decide what happens to your own body to a certain extent. With piercing and tattooing, however, the situation is somewhat different. Because these interventions are considered as bodily harm. Therefore, your parents must give their consent if you are under 18 years old and want to be pierced or tattooed.
Trustworthy piercers and tattoo artists do not serve teenagers under 18 anyway, because their bodies are still changing too much. They know that such interventions on kids not infrequently remain without unpleasant consequences.
That’s why you should not get a tattoo or piercing without first talking to your parents about it if you are still a minor.
Buying A Pet
You can buy all kinds of animals at the pet store. Because kids love animals, it’s not uncommon for them to argue with their parents if they don’t want a floppy ear, puppy or small kitten at home.
As a kid, you have to talk to your parents if you want to buy a pet with your pocket money. You can’t just buy one without getting their consent. In Germany, you need a written consent form from your parents if you want to buy an animal in a pet store as a child. Without this declaration of consent, the seller is not allowed to hand over the animal to you.
Please do not try to forge such a document. By doing so, you will not only start a major fight with your parents as soon as they notice the animal. You will be punished for forgery of documents. Try the honest way by negotiating a compromise with your parents.
Sexual Harassment (Grabbing And Hitting On)
Harassing someone with sexual intent is sexual harassment. Even remarks that contain sexist swear words or belittle someone based on their gender or sexual characteristics fall under the concept of sexual harassment. This offense is rarely prosecutable under criminal law. In any case, however, charges of coercion or insult may be filed.
You are also not allowed to grope someone if they do not want to be groped.
Theft is when you knowingly take something from a store without paying for it. If you borrow something from a library or redeem a credit, then this is of course not theft. It always depends on what your intentions are.
Be careful about pocketing things in the store. Because even if you let something disappear in your pocket or clothes, it is considered theft. Then the store owner can no longer access it or recognize that you want to take the item with you.
Snooping Around In Other People’s Diaries
When you live in the same apartment with your own siblings, you get to share many a secret. Kids are curious by nature and want to know everything. Nevertheless, it is not allowed to snoop around in other people’s private things.
If you read someone else’s diary without asking for their permission, you are actually committing a crime. This is a violation of the secrecy of correspondence.
Likewise, it’s not okay to open letters addressed to someone else. So think about whether you really need to pry into the private affairs of your siblings or friends.
Riding The Train Without A Ticket
Most services cost something. That’s because the person offering them must at least be able to cover their own costs. If you use a paid service without paying for it, then that’s usually not allowed.
So getting on the train without a ticket is also against the rules. By doing so, you are cheating the train operator out of the price of the ticket. Therefore, fare evasion is nothing other than fraud.
If you are caught fare evasion, however, there are no immediate consequences. Normally, you get a payment slip because you have to pay a hefty fine. But a call to the transport company is usually enough to get the fine waived. Because the first time the transport company still turn a blind eye and let you get away with a warning. However, if you are caught fare dodging more than once, you will have to expect a fine. After the third time, you will usually be reported to the police.
By the way, you are not allowed to get out of the affair by showing a false ID to the ticket inspector. If you have to show an ID, it must not be fake. Because that is not allowed either.
Birthday parties, small celebrations and house parties are rarely quiet affairs. A certain level of noise may be generated (this is hardly avoidable when many people are in one place). However, your neighbors must not feel disturbed by the noise.
In any case, the night’s rest from 10:00 p.m. onwards should be strictly observed. From this time on, you should close the windows, turn down the music and make sure that no one outside is noisy. Depending on the federal state, there are different quiet times to which you must adhere. You can find out more about this in the legal information center on your state’s website.
It is advisable to talk to your neighbors before a party about the fact that it can get a bit noisy. Maybe you can find a compromise or agree exactly what is okay and what is not. This can help you avoid charges.
Inciting Someone To Commit A Crime
It’s not uncommon for kids and teens to steal small amounts of money or items. Some would like to have something, but don’t dare steal it themselves. Then someone is persuaded to commit the crime. In the worst case, the person is coerced into stealing something for you because otherwise he or she will be beaten up or threatened with other consequences.
If you put others up to doing something against the law, you are committing a crime. So it is no less dangerous to send someone forward to “do” something for you than to do it yourself. Incitement to commit a crime may result in the ordering of educational measures or more severe penalties, depending on the age of the offender.
Kids and teens under 16 are not allowed to drink alcohol in most countries. Elsewhere, it is even often the case that no alcoholic beverages may be consumed until the age of 21.
Be aware that other countries have different customs and therefore different laws. It can be dangerous to loiter in public (park, street, subway) while intoxicated on vacation. While the consumption of alcohol in public is tolerated in some countries, it is often forbidden and therefore punishable.
If you’re too young to drink alcohol, you can’t be sold any. Dealers who violate this are also liable to prosecution.
Therefore, inform yourself well about the laws in your country if you plan to drink alcohol.
As a child, you do not have to work. However, your biggest and most important duty is to attend classes. And do it whenever you can! As long as you are of compulsory school age, you have to go to school. The exact duration of compulsory schooling depends on where you live. There are even different regulations from state to state.
If you are caught playing truant, you will receive a warning from the teacher and principal. They will also inform your parents that you have played truant. The first time it is not so bad. However, if you skip more often, there will be unpleasant consequences. You may get a reprimand, detention, or even expulsion from school. The type of punishment for truancy also varies depending on where you live.
If you are almost absent from school, you may be taken to school by the police.
Selling Stolen Things
You probably know that you are not allowed to steal money or items from other people. In addition, it is also forbidden to sell stolen goods. Thieves who think they are particularly clever want to get rid of stolen goods as quickly as possible and turn them into “clean” money by selling them.
If you get on the trail of someone like that, you will be charged with receiving stolen goods. By the way, it is also forbidden to buy stolen goods. However, if you do not know that the goods are stolen, you do not commit a crime when you buy them.
In this case, you still have to return the goods to the rightful owner. You can then claim the amount paid back from the seller. Of course, the owner does not have to pay for the goods.
Currently, illegal sales of virtual goods on the Internet are occurring again and again. Hackers are gaining access to valuable game accounts and auctioning them off on Ebay, for example. This not only violates the terms and conditions of game manufacturers such as World of Warcraft and others, but also constitutes the crime of receiving stolen goods. Strictly speaking, the stolen accounts are also stolen goods.
You are thinking about buying such an account on the Internet? Better not. Because in the end you can never know if the seller is really the owner of the account or if it is a hacker. If the scammer is particularly clever, he will probably steal the account from you again as soon as you have given him money for it by hacking you and changing the password.
Even if it is an honest seller who owns the account legitimately, buying a gaming account is not a good idea. You may pay a lot of money for it, but after that the account will be banned by the game maker because he finds out that the account has been given away. In this case, there is not much you can do and you will have lost a lot of money.
Teasing has probably always existed. In our modern times, this unfair behavior has been given the name bullying. Teasing other children, excluding them or spreading lies about the person is not only undesirable, but sometimes punishable by law.
It is very easy to spread lies about someone on Facebook or other social networks (“cyberbullying”). Many people do not realize that they are committing defamation. This means that bullying is not a trivial offense, but a serious criminal act.
Not Paying Bills
If you order something on the Internet that you can’t actually pay, you are guilty of fraud. Fraud means that you obtain a service by pretending to be able to pay for it. This also applies, of course, if you consume food and drink in a restaurant that you cannot pay for.
Painting Nazi Symbols
In Germany, Austria and Switzerland you have the right to free speech. As a free person, you are entitled to have your own opinion on political, religious and other topics. However, this only applies as long as you do not endanger the order of your state. You are not allowed to violate this limit.
That is why it is forbidden to paint Nazi symbols anywhere, to distribute right-wing extremist flyers or to support a neo-Nazi group. Because these groups do not want democracy in their country and thus endanger the state itself. That is why you are liable to prosecution if you are involved in such things.
Basically, you should stay away from all kinds of extremist groups. Because not only neo-Nazis pursue forbidden goals. Islamist organizations are also banned. Furthermore, it can be dangerous if you meet with such people more often.
So it’s better to refrain from coming into contact with extremist groups. You never know if you will become the object of their hatred yourself.
It is clear to most kids that you are not allowed to hit or otherwise hurt others. Some do it anyway because they think they won’t get caught anyway.
Depending on the severity of the injury and the damage done to the victim, the offense is prosecuted as assault, dangerous bodily injury, or even aggravated assault. By the way, even the attempt to injure someone else is punishable.
As soon as you negatively affect the physical well-being of another person, there is bodily injury. A bump, a bruise or a scratch – all these are already bodily injuries, although they can also happen unintentionally.
If you plan the attack on the person together with others, trick the person or use a weapon in the process, then it is dangerous bodily injury. An attack with harmful substances such as poison also falls under the offence of dangerous bodily injury.
Serious bodily injury carries even higher penalties. Such a case is when the victim continues to suffer from the effects of the act for a long time or even suffers permanent damage. Impaired sensory organs (eye blinded, ear deaf,…) constitute severe impairment. If the victim is physically disabled after the incident, suffers severe psychological damage or can no longer reproduce due to the act, a verdict of grievous bodily harm is also to be expected.
Such things can sometimes happen because you hurt someone unintentionally. If you should have been more careful and the incident could have been prevented, then you are guilty of negligent bodily injury. Because others must not suffer harm even if you are clumsy, careless and sloppy.
Standing Lookout For A Crime
You may think that you can’t be harmed if you didn’t commit a crime yourself but knew about it. You’d better not be too sure of yourself. If you help someone to commit a crime, you are also liable to prosecution. Even being a lookout for a theft is considered aiding and abetting a crime.
In this case, you cannot simply get out of the affair because you did not directly commit the crime yourself. So never let yourself be persuaded to be a lookout for someone. Explain that there will be consequences for you, too, if you are caught.
Leaving Someone Alone Who Needs Your Help
If you are involved in a minor or major accident, don’t just walk away. For example, if you are riding your bike and cause a dent in a car, you are not allowed to run away. You must then try to contact the owner of the car. Wait a while until the owner returns to his car. If this does not work, it is best to call the police.
If you leave the scene of an accident without informing the owner, you will have to pay a hefty fine. Depending on whether someone saw you and whether charges are filed, you may be found out and prosecuted for your crime. This offense is usually dealt with under juvenile criminal law. In any case, a file will be created about you and there may be educational measures.
Testifying Falsely Before The Police Or In Court
Every now and then, kids and teens have to make a statement to the police or court. Some commit a crime and have to tell their side of the story after being reported. Others witness a crime and describe what they witnessed at the time of the crime.
As soon as you have to make a statement in such a situation, you must not lie. This is because everything you say is included in the verdict. Therefore, it could be that due to your false testimony, a verdict is reached that should not actually exist. This usually happens to the detriment of innocent people who cannot get their rights in this way.
That is why it is strictly forbidden to lie in court or to the police. Normally, one is educated about this. When giving a statement to the police, one must even sign what one has told in written form.
If you don’t remember the incident correctly or are not sure about some details, just admit it. Say that you don’t really remember. This is usually not a problem and in any case better than inventing something that is not true.
Haunt The Cemetery
Teenagers always find it fun to meet at the cemetery in the evening. It’s creepy and not infrequently used as a dare. However, a cemetery is a place of rest where we remember our deceased. Therefore, you should also treat it as such.
The rest of the dead is even regulated by law. Even as a young person, you are not allowed to pollute, damage or “haunt” memorials such as cemeteries. Doing so would make you guilty of disturbing the peace of the dead. In the worst case, you could even be charged with damage to property, which would make the matter even more unpleasant.
Surely you also have relatives who are already buried at the cemetery. It wouldn’t be fun for you if someone else defaced the grave or disturbed your visit to the cemetery, would it? Always remember when someone asks you to go to the cemetery with them for fun.
Saying Something False About Someone Else
It can be quite quick to claim something untrue about someone else. However, you should be aware that in doing so, you can permanently damage that person’s reputation. He or she may suffer the consequences of your lies if they are spread.
Saying something false about someone else constitutes defamation. This means that you are liable to prosecution. This applies to speaking lies directly as well as spreading them via SMS, Facebook, e-mail or letter.
It’s true that you probably won’t face heavy penalties if you get caught. However, depending on who you have offended in this way, you may face unpleasant consequences. You may be punished by your school or parents.
For us Europeans, freedom is a very important asset that must be protected. No one wants to be deprived of their freedom in any way. That’s why you can’t lock up or detain someone if they don’t want to be.
Of course, you must not be locked up or prevented from moving freely either. This also applies to your parents. They are not allowed to lock you in your room or the house. Not even if they want to punish you for something.
Because every person (especially from a certain age) must be able to determine his or her own whereabouts without being prevented or influenced.
Locking others up is punishable because it is a deprivation of liberty.
Keeping Something Found
Sometimes things or bills get lost if you are not paying proper attention. This can happen quite quickly and happens to almost everyone at least once in their life. When you find out that your wallet or your beloved Gameboy is missing, you are shocked at first.
If you find other people’s possessions or money, you can’t just keep them. From a value of more than 10 €, this is usually considered as misappropriation. Actually, you would have to go to the lost and found office or the police with the found objects. Depending on how valuable the object is, you have to pay an appropriate finder’s fee. If the finder does not come forward within the next few years, you will even get the lost property.
Also, always remember how desperate you yourself would be if you lost that item. It is not fair to keep something for yourself that does not belong to you. Rather, do the right thing by allowing the owner to get his or her things back.
Copying CDs, DVDs And The Like
You’ve probably heard of something called copyright. This states that the ownership of music, film and software remains with the author. The author is the one who created the work. He alone decides what happens to his work. So he has control over who can use it and what he has to do for it (pay a certain amount of money).
If you now copy a music CD and give it to your friends, you are violating copyright law. Especially older teenagers can be prosecuted with fines or even imprisonment. By the way, playing pirated content over the Internet (streaming) is also not allowed. Because pirating and streaming are quite popular among kids and teenagers, we have written a separate article about it, which you can read on our site. It tells you exactly what you are allowed to do and what you are not allowed to do according to copyright law.
Worksheet For The Text
1) Explain the difficult words in the text.
2) What are laws for? Why is it necessary for the entire population to abide by them as much as possible?
3) Have you ever been in conflict with the law yourself? Or perhaps you witnessed someone committing a crime? Write down what happened and explain why this action is actually not allowed.
Photo: Buchan / bigstockphoto.com