When you’re under 18, it can feel like all the adults around you— parents, teachers, coaches, even random strangers at Starbucks—are constantly telling you what you can and can’t do. When you add in that you can’t vote and you may not be old enough to drive, it’s easy to feel like you have no rights at all. But the truth is you have more rights than you may realize. In fact, you have the same constitutional rights as adults, which, when you think about it, is pretty awesome. Even more awesome: Your rights don’t only protect you—they can also help you stand up for others and fight against injustices in the world. You can do amazing things once you understand what your legal protections are (and you can avoid a lot of trouble if you know what they aren’t).
But before you start quoting the Constitution to any grump who tells you to get off his sidewalk, you should remember that laws can change over time and vary by state. Always check the law if you find yourself in a tricky situation (your local American Civil Liberties Union chapter is a good place to start) and talk to your parent or guardian about what to do. Also, keep in mind that just because you legally can do something, that doesn’t mean you always should. The unfair truth is that sometimes, asserting your rights could actually put you in danger. So when using the advice from this article, always assess the situation and do everything you can to stay respectful, polite, and safe. Read on to learn what your rights actually are in some common daily dilemmas.