Inconsistency may well be the hallmark of the teenage years. Frequently, teenagers are serious and adult-like, yet just as often, they are callow and unpredictable. Generally, they are all of these things, in no particular order. They studiously observe the adults in their lives, adopting certain values and behaviors, while wholly rejecting others. Their moods shift without warning, leaving entire households with the sensation that they are living on a roller-coaster. As a result, it is not entirely surprising that the legal system has had difficulty deciding how to respond to them. The laws devised to govern teenagers are layered, reflecting society's alternating perceptions of teenagers as adult-like and child-like, and our accompanying impulses to respect as well as to protect this population. Read together, these laws defy any consistent description of adolescent capacity. We have lived with these inconsistencies for so long, though, that they have grown rather familiar to us, and that we hardly recognize the puzzle in the fact that we trust eighteen year olds enough to let them fight and die in the military, but not enough to let them drink alcoholic beverages.