Legal Dictionary

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Age of Majority

When a child reaches the age of majority he or she is considered an adult. In California the age of majority is 18 (CA Family Code 6500-6502). In general, a child who has not reached the age of majority and has committed a crime will be processed through the Juvenile Justice System. “Legal Age” generally means the same thing as age of majority. The age of majority has had an interesting effect on the legal drinking age in many states. Following the repeal of prohibition, the drinking age of most states was set at 21 because that was the age of majority in most states.

However, over the years, for various reasons, the age of majority was lowered, and then the drinking age was lowered to be consistent with it. Then during the late 1980's, however, the Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed, which mandated withholding federal highway funds from states that did not raise the drinking age to 21. Now every state has a drinking age of 21, although in most states the age of majority remains lower.