Guide to Laws for Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers in California


1. Driving children

What are the safety rules when driving children?

Children under the age of 2 must be in a rear-facing child safety car seat.

When driving children, you must ensure that your child under 8 years old is properly secured in a rear seat (NOT a front seat) and in a child safety car seat meeting applicable federal motor vehicle safety standards.1CA Veh Code Sec 27360. See some exceptions at Sec. 27363

You must ensure that your child between ages 8-15 is using either a child safety seat or safety belt.2CA Veh Code Sec 27360.5. One exception is if you are NOT the driver, but instead a passenger in the car with your child, you do not need to restrain the child (presumably because you are holding onto him/her)(Note: all drivers, whether parents or not, must ensure that all passengers 16 years or older are wearing a safety belt)3CA Veh Code Sec. 27315

See our Guide to Laws for Drivers in California.

Is it illegal to smoke in a car with a child?

Yes you may not smoke in a car when anyone younger than 18 years old is inside (aka child, minor, etc)4CA Health & Safety Code Sec 118948

Is it illegal to leave a child in a car?

You may not leave a child 6 years old or younger without the supervision of someone 12 or older where it would pose a significant risk to the child’s health or safety, such as in a hot car; or where the vehicle’s engine is running or the keys are in the ignition. This is called “Kaitlyn’s Law” or the “Unattended Child in Motor Vehicle Safety Act.”5CA Vehicle Code Sec 15620

2. Minors and alcohol

What are my obligations as a parent as to alcohol and minors?

If you sell or give alcohol to a person under 21 years old, you could be found guilty of a misdemeanor crime, with a fine of up to $250 and 24 hrs of community service. If the intoxicated underage person then injures anyone, you could be found guilty of an additional misdemeanor crime, with a fine of up to $1,000 and/or jail time of up to 1 year.6BPC 25658

If you allow your child and/or your child’s friends, who are under 18 years old, to drink alcohol or use drugs at your home, AND you then knowingly allow any of them to drive, AND any of them cause an accident, you could be guilty of a misdemeanor crime, with a $1,000 fine and/or jail time of up to 1 year.7BPC Sec. 25658.2

3. Responsibility for child’s actions

Could I be held financially responsible for paying for any damages my child causes?

Yes, if your child willfully injures or kills another person, or willfully damages property, you are financially responsible to pay the judgment, up to about $30,000 per incident.8Cal Civ Code 1714.1

4. Children’s privacy on the Internet

Privacy for children under the age of 18

For children under 18 who are registered users of a site or app, the site/app must give the child the ability to remove (or to have the site remove) any content or information they post on the site/app.9Business & Professions Code 22580, effective Jan 1, 2015 The website or app does NOT need to provide this option if the content or info was posted by someone else, or if the content or info is “anonymized” so that it does not identify who posted it or who the information is about, or if the child was paid for the content.

Note: This does NOT mean the site/app is required to collect age information from its users.

Websites may not market certain products to anyone under 18, such as alcohol, tobacco, or weapons.10See full list at B&P 22580(i)

Privacy for children under the age of 13

Websites that get any information from children under 13 must:11Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, found at U.S. Code Title 15, Section 6501

  • post privacy policy
  • notify parents directly before collecting personal data from children, and obtain their consent (parent can stop consenting any time)
  • implement procedures to protect kids’ personal info

See more at our Guide to Laws about the Internet.


  • Tristan Blaine

    Tristan Blaine is the founder of Law Soup Media, and has been a licensed attorney since 2013.

    About Tristan


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