General Legal Principles

Table of Contents
Oklahoma Bar Association, since 1904

General Legal Principles

Do you get all of the rights of an adult when you reach the age of 18?

Generally, Yes.

What are some of your new rights?

  • You can vote in federal, state and local elections.
  • You can marry without your parents' permission
  • You can make a will.
  • You can get medical treatment without your parents' consent.
  • You can be an organ donor by indicating your wishes when you renew your driver's license.
  • You can apply to join the military without your parents' consent.
  • You have a one-year window to petition a court to reopen civil judgments made when you were a minor.
  • You can contract to lease an apartment or purchase a home or car.

What are some of your new responsibilities?

  • You are responsible for yourself. Your parents are no longer legally responsible for you.
  • You can be held to a contract.
  • You can sue and be sued.
  • You are legally responsible for your own actions.
  • You can be tried as an adult if you are accused of any crime.
  • You can be called to serve on a jury.
  • If you are a male, you must register with the Selective Service within 30 days after reaching the age of 18.

Upon reaching eighteen, a person has a one-year window to petition a court to reopen civil judgments made when the person was a minor.

If proper notice and good cause is shown, the court may modify, vacate, or set aside the judgment. For instance, if a person were involved in a motor vehicle accident as a child and a court approved a friendly suit judgment at that time, once the person reached the age of eighteen, the person has a one-year period in which she/he could request the court reopen the friendly suit and have the judgment modified. Good cause could be related injuries that were unknown at the time, but which were presented after the initial judgment.

How do you register to vote?

Register to Vote Visit https://www.ok.gov/elections/ You can find voter registration forms at many places (for example, the U.S. Post Office or the public library). The form must be submitted to the county election board in the county where you live. All Oklahoma counties have an Election Board located in each county seat. Where you live controls where you vote. The place you vote is called a "polling place."

If you will be away from home on Election Day, you can vote through the mail. This is called "absentee voting." To vote absentee, call your county Election Board. Specific rules must be followed to vote absentee. You can also vote by absentee ballot at the county election board on the Monday before a local election or on Thursday, Friday or Monday before a statewide election.



How do you register with the Selective Service?

Register Selective Service Visit https://www.sss.gov/ Selective Service is an agency under the authority of the Executive Branch of the federal government which serves a two-part mission. First, the Selective Service System is charged with the responsibility to deliver untrained manpower to the armed forces in times of emergency as determined by the Department of Defense. Second, the Selective Service Systems is charged with the responsibility of administering an alternative service program for conscientious objectors. All male U.S. citizens must register with the Selective Service System within 30 days of turning 18. Male aliens living in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 25 must also register, regardless of their legal right to be in the country. Non-citizen males of age must also register to protect their future hope of becoming a U.S. citizen. There is no military draft now; however, all males must still sign up with the Selective Service within 30 days after turning 18. Those who fail to register could be denied job benefits, student loans, and other government aid. For more information, visit www.sss.gov.

How is the court system organized?

Court System Each government body has its own court. Cities have municipal courts, which deal with city laws such as traffic violations. The state has district courts, the Court of Civil Appeals, the Court of Criminal Appeals and the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The state courts deal with state laws and disputes between Oklahoma citizens. Each county in Oklahoma has a district court where trials are conducted. District Courts hear civil and criminal cases. Criminal cases involve fines and/or jail time. Civil cases involve such things as breach of contract, divorce, small claims, or personal injury. Some cases are decided by a jury; some cases are decided by a judge.

If you do not agree with the district court decision in a civil case, you can ask a higher court to hear your case. This is called an "appeal." Civil appeals from the district court or from the Workers' Compensation Court go to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The Supreme Court may rule on the appeal or assign it to the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals. If the case is assigned to the Court of Civil Appeals and you do not agree with its decision, you can then further appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court may review the case or may let the Court of Civil Appeals decision stand. An appeal of a criminal case from the district court goes directly to the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. There is no appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court from the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals. If you feel your U.S.

Constitutional Rights have been violated, you may be able to seek relief in federal court. The U.S. government has federal district courts to hear cases dealing with federal law and disputes between citizens of different states. Oklahoma has three federal district courts: in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Muskogee. Like the state district courts, the federal district courts are courts that conduct trials. An appeal from a federal district court in Oklahoma is reviewed by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is located in Denver, Colorado. An appeal from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals is reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.