Do You Know the Juvenile Law?

Alcoholic Beverages

It is illegal in Tennessee for a person under the age of twenty-one (21) to:

  • possess, purchase, or attempt to purchase alcoholic beverages;
  • make a false statement or exhibit false information to the effect of being 21 years of age or older for the purpose of purchasing or obtaining alcoholic beverages;
  • drink alcoholic beverages anywhere; including in the home; or
  • be served alcoholic beverages in a restaurant or other establishment.

Driver’s license privileges can be denied on conviction of an alcohol offense. See TN Drug Free Youth Act (55-10-705).


A person commits assault who causes: (1) bodily injury to another; (2) another to “fear” bodily injury; or, (3) physical contact with another and knows the other will regard the contact as extremely offensive.


The curfew ordinance makes it illegal for any person under the age of 18 to be in a public place during curfew hours:

  • September-May — Sunday – Thursday — 11:00 pm – 5:00 am
    Friday – Saturday — 12:00 am – 5:00 am
  • June, July & August — Every Day — 12:00 am – 5:00 am

Definitions of Child/Adult

Persons under Age 18
The definition of a “child” is a person under eighteen (18) years of age (37-1-102). A child is also commonly referred to as a minor, juvenile, or youth.
The Juvenile Court generally is the court which presides over offenders in this age group; however juveniles of any age can be transferred to the adult criminal court for felony offenses of first or second degree murder, rape, aggravated rape, rape of a child, aggravated robbery, especially aggravated robbery, kidnapping, aggravated kidnapping, or especially aggravated kidnapping (37-1-134).
For the purposes of Court supervision or DCS supervision or custody, jurisdiction extends to the child’s 19th birthday.

Persons Age 18 or older
The definition of an “adult” is a person eighteen (18) years of age or older. The adult courts have jurisdiction after their 18th birthday.

Disorderly Conduct

person commits disorderly conduct by:

  • fighting, or engaging in violent or threatening behavior
  • refusing to obey an official order to disperse to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a fire, hazard, or other emergency;
  • creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act that serves no legitimate purpose; or,
  • making unreasonable noise which prevents others from carrying on lawful activities.

Drugs (Controlled Substances)

It is illegal to possess, casually exchange, manufacture, deliver, or sell drugs. Strict laws are written to discourage the use and distribution of drugs. Drugs threaten our individual lives, families, schools and communities. It is also illegal to inhale, sniff, sell, give or possess glue, paint, gasoline, aerosol, or similar products for unlawful purposes.

Driver’s license privileges can be denied on conviction of a drug offense.
See TN Drug-Free Youth Act.

Drug Paraphernalia

It is unlawful for any person to use or possess with intent to use drug paraphernalia. Drug paraphernalia is any kind of equipment or materials used or intended to use in growing, processing, injecting, or otherwise introducing into the human body, a controlled substance. For example, a pipe with marijuana residue is drug paraphernalia. When marijuana and “rolling papers” are found together, the rolling papers can be considered drug paraphernalia.

Driver’s license privileges can be denied on conviction of a drug paraphernalia offense.

See TN Drug-Free Youth Act..

Parent Responsibility

Under Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County ordinance, it is illegal for the parent of a child to permit, either knowingly or negligently, the child to violate curfew. The term “knowingly” includes knowledge that a parent should reasonably be expected to have concerning the whereabouts of a juvenile in that parent’s custody.

Parks- Restricted Hours

No person can enter or remain in any park during restricted hours:
Metropolitan parks between 11:00 pm and one half hour before sunrise
US Army Corps of Engineers Parks between 10:00 pm and 6:00 am (unless otherwise posted)


A runaway or missing person is a person whose whereabouts are unknown to his or her parent or guardian, or is absent without permission. Instead of running away a child should discuss his or her feelings and situation with a reliable person; e.g. parent, guardian, teacher, school counselor, social worker, religious leader. A child can call the 24 hour hotlines for the following agencies:

  • Oasis Center – 327-4455
  • Crisis Intervention Center – 244-7444
  • National Runaway Switchboard – 1-800-621-4000

When a parent or guardian believes a child has run away or is missing, the Metropolitan Police Department should be notified at 862-8600. A runaway petition can be filed at Juvenile Court.


State Compulsory Attendance Law
Children under the age of 18 are required to attend school in Tennessee. A student who regularly fails to attend school and is not legally excused (by the School Board of Education) from compulsory school attendance can be charged with truancy.

Loitering During School hours (LDSH)
Children under 18 and subject to the state compulsory attendance law can be charged with LDSH in public areas or other “unsupervised” places in Davidson County. For example, a student who is “skipping” school can be charged with LDSH.

Parent/Guardian Responsibility
The parent or guardian who knowingly permits his or her child to not attend school can be charged and penalized.

Smoking Material, Smoking Paraphernalia, Smokeless Tobacco Products

Persons, under the age of 18, cannot directly or indirectly purchase or acquire smoking material, smoking paraphernalia, or smokeless tobacco products.

  • Smoking Material – cigarettes, or any other smoking tobacco products
  • Smoking Paraphernalia – cigarette holder, cigarette papers, smoking pipe, water pipe, or other item designated to hold smoking material
  • Smokeless Tobacco – chewing tobacco, snuff, or any other tobacco product that is smokeless.

Reinstate Driver’s License/Tennessee Drug-Free Youth Act

The Tennessee Drug-Free Youth Act provides for the denial of driver’s licenses for alcohol and other drug convictions of persons ages 13-17. For the first offense, the driver’s license can be revoked by the Department of Safety for one (1) year or until the person becomes 17, whichever is longer. For second and subsequent offenses, the license can be denied for two (2) years or until the person becomes 18, whichever is longer.

If your ability to operate a motor vehicle was suspended due to a drug or weapon charge heard by Juvenile Court, you must return to Juvenile Court in order to have any driving restrictions lifted. You may apply for reinstatement by filing of a motion through the Juvenile Court Clerk’s office. To qualify for a reinstatement, you must have attended any ordered class and your suspension must have expired. You may seek an early reinstatement or restricted license if there are extraordinary circumstances . The Juvenile Court Clerk’s office will inform you of your court date.

Theft of Property

Taking things which do not belong to you without permission of the owner is theft. Theft includes “shoplifting” items from a store. A person with intent to deprive a store can be charged with theft by

  1. concealing merchandise
  2. removing, taking possession of, or causing the removal of merchandise;
  3. altering, transferring, or removing the price tag with intent to change the value of the merchandise; or,
  4. transferring merchandise from one container to another.
  5. A “companion” who assists a shoplifter can also be charged with theft.

Theft of Services

Theft of services is when a person obtains services and avoids payment for the services. For example, theft of services is leaving a restaurant without paying for food or driving away from a service station without paying for gasoline.


Trespassing is the entry onto or remaining on the property of another without the property owner’s consent. A person must not trespass on property when the property owner has given notice against entering or remaining by any one of the following alternatives:

  • Personal communication by the owner or someone acting on behalf of the owner
  • Fences or other enclosures on the property: or
  • Posted “No Trespassing” sign(s).


Any person who causes damage to or destruction of another person’s property can be charged with vandalism. For example, vandalism is damaging cars by throwing rocks or eggs, or praying graffiti on buildings. Vandalism is also tampering with another person’s property which causes substantial inconvenience or monetary loss to the property owner.


It is illegal for a child under 18 to possess, a firearm (regardless of whether the firearm is loaded or is even capable of discharging ammunition), knife with a blade length longer than four inches, a club, or any deadly weapon used to commit an offense or escape from an offense. Prohibited weapons also include a switchblade knife, knuckles, or any other weapon used to inflict serious bodily injury or death.
The Metropolitan Board of Public Education will not tolerate any type of weapon on school property. You could be “zero toleranced” from attending public school for one calendar year.