PA Kids Laws

There are thousands of laws in Pennsylvania, and many of those laws deal directly with issues relating to kids. How many hours are kids allowed to work during the week? When can they get their drivers’ licenses? What is the punishment for graffiti? These and many other questions are answered below. Please take a moment to learn about the laws that affect Pennsylvania kids.

Property damage, skipping school and tobacco use are just a few of the topics covered in this area.

Criminal Mischief

Criminal mischief is when you damage someone else’s property, whether intentionally or by accident. It is also considered criminal mischief when you mark or draw on someone’s property without their permission, known as graffiti. When you are playing with a paintball gun and intentionally shoot it at someone else’s property, it is also considered criminal mischief.

If the damages exceed $5,000 or significantly damage public utilities, it is a third-degree felony. If the damages exceed $1,000, it is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. If the damages exceed $500 or are related to graffiti and exceed $150, it is a third-degree misdemeanor.


When someone throws paper, glass, metal or other garbage on the street or into the ocean or lake, he or she is guilty of littering under Pennsylvania law. In addition, when you knock over someone else’s trashcan and do not clean it up, it is littering.

The first time you are arrested for littering, you may have to pay a fine of more than $50 and less than $300, or be put into prison for no more than 90 days. Subsequent offenses will be a third-degree misdemeanor requiring a fine that could be as much as $1,000. The offender also may be sentenced to prison or community service for almost a full year.


A person is guilty of shoplifting if they take possession or transfer store merchandise that was displayed or offered for sale without intending to pay for the item. It is also considered shoplifting if you alter, transfer or remove any label, price tag or other marking related to the value of the merchandise so that you deprive the store owner of the full value of the merchandise. If you destroy or deactivate any security tag or device to prevent being caught for shoplifting, it is considered a shoplifting violation.

When someone intentionally tries to conceal unpurchased merchandise, it is considered a shoplifting violation.

The first offense, when the merchandise’s value is less than $150, is considered a summary offense. It is a misdemeanor of the first degree when the offense is a first or second offense, and the merchandise is valued over $150. It is a felony of the third degree when the offense is the third or subsequent offense regardless of the merchandise’s value


Anyone under the age of 18 is guilty of a summary offense if the minor purchases or attempts to purchase any kind of tobacco product. If a minor intentionally tries to pass himself off as 18 or older in order to purchase tobacco, he is also guilty of an offense.

A minor found guilty of this offense can be sentenced to any or all of the following:

  • No more than 75 hours of community service
  • Complete a Department of Health tobacco use and cessation program
  • A fine not to exceed $200
  • A 30-day suspension of motor vehicle operating privileges
  • The minor’s parents will receive notification of the citation


Truancy is when a school-age child does not attend school for three or more days in a row without a valid excuse for his or her absence.

A parent or legal guardian is responsible to ensure children between the ages of eight and 17 attend school regularly. However, if the parent shows he or she took every reasonable step so that the child attends school, generally the court will not punish them. If the judge finds the parent could have prevented the truancy, the parent or guardian may be found guilty of a summary offence and fined up to $300 or required to complete an education program.

A child can also get in trouble for being truant. If an attendance or law enforcement officer is told the particular child is truant, he or she can arrest the child and return them to the public school in which the child should be enrolled. If the judge finds the truancy is not the parent’s fault, and the child is 13 or older, the child could be forced to pay a fine up to $300 or enter into an education program. Also, if the child has a driver’s license, it can be suspended up to 90 days for the first truancy offense and up to six months for subsequent offenses. If the child does not have a license, their chance to apply for one can be suspended up to 90 days for the first offense and six months for additional offenses.
Truancy does not apply to children involved in home-schooling programs.

When are kids allowed to drive with a junior license? What are the fines for not wearing a seat belt? What’s a DUI? Get the answers to these and other questions in this area.

Junior Driver’s License

Any teenager age 16 or 17 may be issued a junior diver’s license. A junior license prohibits a young driver from operating a vehicle on a public highway between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Exceptions are made for junior drivers who are members of a volunteer fire company or who have to travel later due to work. Also, under the junior license, the number of passengers in a vehicle may not exceed the number of seatbelts.  In the event of an accident under which the junior driver is partially or fully responsible, operating privileges may be suspended until the driver reaches 18 years of age or for no more than 90 days.

For a junior license driver to qualify for a full, unrestricted license, he or she must have had a junior license for a full year, remained crash and conviction free and have completed a state-approved driver’s education course.

If a junior licensed driver is caught violating the nighttime driving restriction, he or she is subject to a $25 fine plus up to two points on his or her driving record. If a junior licensed driver is caught violating the seatbelt restriction, he or she is subject to a $10 fine.

Learner’s Permit

Any teenager with a learner’s permit may not drive between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. The number of passengers in the car may not exceed the number of seat belts in the vehicle.

To be eligible for a road test, the driver must complete a mandatory six months of driving for skill building with a supervising adult after receiving his permit.

If the driver is convicted of a six-point violation on his or her license or for a single high-speed conviction (26 miles per hour or more over posted speed limit), the driver will be suspended for a mandatory 90 days.

A learner’s permit is valid for one year.

Unrestricted License

Once a driver has received his or her unrestricted license, he or she may not drive with more passengers than there are seatbelts in the car.

Individuals under the age of 18 are not eligible for an unrestricted license without the completion of an approved driver’s education course and a crash- and conviction-free record for 12 months.

Seatbelt Law

Any child over four years old and under eight years must be secured in a seatbelt system.
Each driver and front passenger must wear a seat belt that is properly adjusted and fastened. A driver who is under 18 cannot operate a motor vehicle in which there are more passengers than seat belts.

The maximum fine for not using a seatbelt for children under age eight is $100 and for drivers and passengers over age eight the fine is $10. However, a driver or passenger cannot be cited for failure to wear a seatbelt unless they are convicted of another automobile violation at the same time.

Drunk Driving

A minor may not drive or operate a vehicle after drinking a sufficient amount of alcohol so that the alcohol concentration in his or her breath or blood is 0.02% or higher within two hours of operating a vehicle.

Did you know the minors can’t work for more than five continuous hours without a 30 minute lunch break? Or, that no child under the age of 16 can work outside school for more than four hours a day? This area explains the child labor laws in Pennsylvania.

  • Under Pennsylvania law, no child under the age of 16 may be employed. There is an exception for a child between the ages of 12 and 14, who may serve as a golf caddy, but may only carry one golf bag and not for any longer than 18 holes in one day. A child between 14 and 16 may also caddy with the restriction that it cannot interfere with school attendance.
  • No child under the age of 18 can be employed for more than six consecutive days a week or more than 44 hours in one week or more than eight hours a day. If in school, no child under the age of 18 shall be employed for more than 28 hours during a school week.
  • No child under the age of 16 can work outside school for more than four hours a day.
  • A child under the age of 18 cannot be employed continuously for five hours without an interval of at least 30 minutes for lunch.
  • No minor is allowed to work in an alcohol brewing or bottling operation or to serve or handle alcoholic liquor in any establishment where such items are sold.
  • No minor may work in any occupation that is dangerous to his or her health or morals.
  • For children employed in the performing arts, permits will be issued for minors between the ages of seven and 18 as long as the child will not work past 11:30 p.m. or in an establishment where alcohol is served.
  • Before a minor is eligible to work, he must register for a work permit, which is issued by the school district superintendent or principal. To apply, the parent or legal guardian of the minor must fill out a form, and the minor must be examined by the registering officer.
  • There are two kinds of work permits: general employment and vacation certificates. General employment permits apply to minors ages sixteen to eighteen and allow them to work during the school year. Vacation permits allow minors, 12 to 14, to work as golf caddies and minors, 14 to 18, to work on any day during breaks from school. To be eligible for these permits, the prospective employer must sign a statement describing the employment and the number of hours per day and week the minor will be employed.

Walking your dog, registering to vote and wearing a bike helmet are all activities governed by Pennsylvania law.

Bike Helmet Law

Anyone under 12 years of age must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. Any child in a seat or being towed by the bicycle must also wear a helmet. The first violation of this law will be dismissed if the person produces proof that a helmet has been purchased.

No bicycle may be used to carry more people than for which the bicycle is designed and equipped, except in cases where a child carrier has been safely and securely attached to an adult bicycle.

Dog Laws

All dogs must be under control at all times by their owners or handlers when off personal property. It is recommended that you control your dog by a leash, but it is not required by law. Because dogs are considered personal property, the owner is responsible for any damage the dog does.

All dogs three months or older must be licensed in the county in which they reside. The application fee for an annual license is $7.

Registering to Vote

A teenager can register to vote in the next election if he/she meets the following qualification:

  • He or she will be 18 by the time of the next election
  • He or she must have been a citizen of the U.S. for at least one month and have lived in the state in which he or she is voting for at least one month.
  • He or she also must not have been convicted of a felony and imprisoned within the last five years.

To register to vote in person, individuals can apply at the motor vehicle licensing office and many government agency offices. Individuals also can register to vote through a mail-in voter registration application.

When a voter arrives at his or her assigned voting place, that person will have to show proof of identification. This includes a driver’s license, U.S. passport or student ID.

Crime: A crime is an offence against public law.

Felony: A felony is a serious crime punishable by at least one year in prison. People convicted of felonies lose some rights, such as the right to vote or hold public office. Upon release from prison, the convict also may be required to register with the police. Felonies are also ranked in degrees – ranging from first to third degrees, based upon the severity of the crime. Generally, first degree is the most severe and therefore attaches a harsher punishment.

Summary Offense: An offense that can be tried without a jury in most cases. Summary offenses are generally reserved for petty offenses, such as driving convictions.

Misdemeanor: Any crime that is not a felony is a misdemeanor. The punishment for a misdemeanor is usually a fine and/or up to one year in jail. A crime can be a misdemeanor for the first offense, but subsequent violations would be felony offenses. Misdemeanors also may be ranked in degrees, similar to felonies.