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District of Columbia Legal Ages Laws

When does a child become an adult? While you might get a different answer depending on who you ask, the law is very clear. Most states and the District of Columbia set the age of majority at 18 years of age. That's when a minor becomes an adult and assumes the full rights available to them under the law.

It's important to understand the significance of becoming an adult, however. While restrictions on minors' ability to gamble, buy cigarettes, and manage their own property or money might seem burdensome, these restrictions are designed to protect minors. Those protections and benefits cease upon becoming an adult. An 18-year-old is bound to honor contracts they sign and can be charged with crimes as an adult.

Continue reading for a quick summary of legal age laws in the District of Columbia and some specific notes on what minors can't do without a parent or guardian.

D.C. Legal Ages Laws

The age of majority in the District of Columbia is 18. Attaining adulthood removes many of the age restrictions in place under D.C. law. Minors need a representative to file a lawsuit, cannot gamble, face restrictions on accessing winnings from a lottery prize, and cannot marry without parental consent. All of these disappear on turning 18. However, it's important to note that someone under the age of 21 cannot purchase or possess cigarettes or tobacco products.

The law also restricts what kind of jobs and what kind of hours minors can work. These also disappear at the age of 18, even if you're still in school. The chart below outlines the basics of legal age laws in the District of Columbia.

Age of Majority

Under § 46-101, it's 18 years of age.

Eligibility for Emancipation

This is not specified by any statute.

Contracts for Minors

Under § 28-3505, a minor cannot be charged or held to a debt, unless the promise was made in writing.

Minors' Ability to Sue

 Minors may file lawsuits with the assistance of a proper representative.

Minors' Consent to Medical Treatment

  • Under many circumstances, a minor requires the consent of a parent or guardian to undergo medical treatment.
  • For example, if the medical treatment requires psychiatric in-patient hospitalization, the consent of a parent or legal guardian is often required.
  • Consider reviewing § 7–1231.14, the relevant statute, for more information about minors' consent to medical treatment.

Related Resources for Legal Ages Laws

Age restrictions on minor children exist to protect them. Those special protections cease to exist upon becoming an adult. For specific questions about legal age laws, we recommend contacting a local family law attorney for advice and assistance.

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