Local Students Learn Legalities of Turning 18

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Contributed by Maureen Arvai

Attorney Tracey Lenox

Attorney Tracey Lenox

Some seniors at Stonewall Jackson High School may view their friends through new eyes after a recent visit from attorney Tracey Lenox, an associate with Nichols, Zauzig and Sandler and a member of the Prince William County Bar Association.

Lenox presented the Prince William County Bar Association’s “So You’re 18!” program, which brings 90 trained member attorneys to all 13 public high schools in Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

Attorneys visit government classes to teach the legal rights and responsibilities that change when a young person turns 18 years old.

For the students at Stonewall Jackson High School, Lenox described a scenario of three friends sharing an off-campus apartment in college in which two roommates hosted a party while the third slept elsewhere due to an early-morning exam.

Upon returning the next day, the third roommate faced a goodbye note from the others, a large hole in the wall damaged during the party, and three months remaining in the lease—a combined rent payment of $1,500 per month.

The students were surprised to learn that since the three friends entered into a contract by signing the lease together, the innocent roommate could be responsible for the cost to repair the wall damage, even though she wasn’t present, and the entire monthly rent until the lease expired—nearly $5,000 total!

“It’s not really fair, but you have to be careful of your choices,” said one student. “I learned you are legally responsible for everything, not just what you do,” in joint living arrangements, said another 17-year-old.

The roommate scenario was one of many topics presented during the “So You’re 18!” segment of this two-part program, which includes voter registration.

Since 2009, The Prince William County Office of Elections and the League of Women Voters have collaborated with The Prince William Bar Association to present the program in area classrooms, according to Alissa Hudson, Executive Director of the Prince William County Bar Association, and coordinator of the program.

Lenox was awarded the Pro Bono Attorney of the Year award from the Prince William Bar Association with fellow attorney John Primeau for their leadership roles in organizing and training for the So You’re 18 Program.

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