California Law: Rights of a 16-Year-Old

By Jack Spencer

In California the age at which a person is considered an adult with all of the incumbent rights and responsibilities, called the age of majority, is 18. Although everyone under the age of 18 is considered a minor and largely treated similarly under the law, minors are able to enjoy more individual rights as they approach the age of majority.


One of the most significant rights conferred to a minor once they reach the age of 16 is the right to obtain employment without a work permit. However, although 16- and 17-year-olds are allowed to work, there are strict limitations on the conditions under which they may be employed. For example, a 16-year-old may become a trainee but may not be employed in an occupation deemed hazardous for minors, such as coal mining.

Medical Consent

In California, the age of consent for medical procedures begins at age 12, with some exceptions. For example, 16 is the age at which a minor may first voluntarily consent to undergoing convulsive treatments. Although the minor's parents are still entitled to make medical decisions on the minor's behalf, the minor is entitled to certain levels of medical privacy. For instance, if a 16-year-old is tested or treated for a sexually transmitted disease, the minor is entitled to request that this information be kept from his parents or guardian.


In California, 14 is the age at which a minor can first file for emancipation. Emancipation is the process by which a minor is removed from the custody of his parents. To be emancipated, the minor must demonstrate that she has a legal source of income and is capable of making sound personal and financial decisions. However, emancipation is not the same as being recognized as an adult. Emancipated minors cannot vote and they must still attend school until they are 18; however, they may live wherever they wish.

Other Rights

In California, 16 is the age at which a minor can first apply for a driver's license from the Department of Motor Vehicles. However, these licenses will be considered provisional until age 18. Provisional licenses carry stricter sanctions for traffic violations. In addition a 16-year-old will be unable to drive between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. or transport someone under the age of 20 -- these restrictions last for 12 months from the date the license is issued.

A 16-year-old may also enlist in the armed forces as long as he has the permission of a parent or guardian.

About the Author

A freelance writer since 2007, Jack Spencer focuses primarily on legal and scientific topics. He also runs a copyrighting firm specializing in small-business marketing and academic research. Spencer received his B.A. in political science from the University of California.