WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD HAS BEEN CHARGED WITH UNDERAGE DRINKING IN NEW JERSEY
In New Jersey, the drinking age is 21. Every year municipal courts around New Jersey are overflowing with teenagers charged with an underage drinking offense, particularly at the jersey shore town. New Jersey beach towns have seen a huge increase in underage drinking cases.
The two most common underage drinking laws handled in municipal court are: N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15 (possession of alcohol under 21 ticket in NJ) and N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14 (underage drinking and driving). The specific statutory language for both laws can be found below.
N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15 is a criminal statute. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15, those under the age of 21 that knowingly consume alcohol are in violation of the law. A conviction under this law will result in a criminal record and subject your child to penalties. These penalties for possession of alcohol under 21 may include an alcohol education program, 6 months in the county jail and a fine up to $1,000.00. Also, it may have a negative impact on college admissions and future job prospects.
UNDERAGE DRINKING AND DRIVING
N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14 is a traffic law. Under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14, those under the age of 21 possessing a blood alcohol level of 0.01% or more (but less than 0.08%) are in violation of New Jersey’s underage drinking and driving laws. A conviction under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14 will NOT result in a criminal record because it is a traffic offense. However, traffic infractions stay on your child’s record for life whereas criminal offenses can sometimes be expunged. Those convicted of underage drinking and driving face community service, fines of $500 or more, an alcohol education program and a driving privilege suspension for a period of 6 months.
What to do if your child has been charge with an underage drinking offense?
Consider speaking with a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer. Many times, the initial consultation is free so you have nothing to lose by doing so. An experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer may be able to mitigate the situation by getting the charges downgraded or dismissed altogether depending on the specific facts of the case.
Underage Drinking Statutes
N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15 (Possession, consumption of alcoholic beverages by persons under legal age; penalty
a. Any person under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages who knowingly possesses without legal authority or who knowingly consumes any alcoholic beverage in any school, public conveyance, public place, or place of public assembly, or motor vehicle, is guilty of a disorderly persons offense, and shall be fined not less than $500.00.
b. Whenever this offense is committed in a motor vehicle, the court shall, in addition to the sentence authorized for the offense, suspend or postpone for six months the driving privilege of the defendant. Upon the conviction of any person under this section, the court shall forward a report to the Division of Motor Vehicles stating the first and last day of the suspension or postponement period imposed by the court pursuant to this section. If a person at the time of the imposition of a sentence is less than 17 years of age, the period of license postponement, including a suspension or postponement of the privilege of operating a motorized bicycle, shall commence on the day the sentence is imposed and shall run for a period of six months after the person reaches the age of 17 years.
If a person at the time of the imposition of a sentence has a valid drivers license issued by this State, the court shall immediately collect the license and forward it to the division along with the report. If for any reason the license cannot be collected, the court shall include in the report the complete name, address, date of birth, eye color, and sex of the person as well as the first and last date of the license suspension period imposed by the court.
The court shall inform the person orally and in writing that if the person is convicted of operating a motor vehicle during the period of license suspension or postponement, the person shall be subject to the penalties set forth in R.S.39:3-40. A person shall be required to acknowledge receipt of the written notice in writing. Failure to receive a written notice or failure to acknowledge in writing the receipt of a written notice shall not be a defense to a subsequent charge of a violation of R.S.39:3-40.
If the person convicted under this section is not a New Jersey resident, the court shall suspend or postpone, as appropriate, the non-resident driving privilege of the person based on the age of the person and submit to the division the required report. The court shall not collect the license of a non-resident convicted under this section. Upon receipt of a report by the court, the division shall notify the appropriate officials in the licensing jurisdiction of the suspension or postponement.
c. In addition to the general penalty prescribed for a disorderly persons offense, the court may require any person who violates this act to participate in an alcohol education or treatment program, authorized by the Department of Health and Senior Services, for a period not to exceed the maximum period of confinement prescribed by law for the offense for which the individual has been convicted.
d. Nothing in this act shall apply to possession of alcoholic beverages by any such person while actually engaged in the performance of employment pursuant to an employment permit issued by the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or for a bona fide hotel or restaurant, in accordance with the provisions of R.S.33:1-26, or while actively engaged in the preparation of food while enrolled in a culinary arts or hotel management program at a county vocational school or post secondary educational institution.
e. The provisions of section 3 of P.L.1991, c.169 (C.33:1-81.1a) shall apply to a parent, guardian or other person with legal custody of a person under 18 years of age who is found to be in violation of this section.
N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14 Penalties for underage person operating motor vehicle after consuming alcohol.
1.Any person under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages who operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% or more, but less than 0.08%, by weight of alcohol in his blood, shall forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State or shall be prohibited from obtaining a license to operate a motor vehicle in this State for a period of not less than 30 or more than 90 days beginning on the date he becomes eligible to obtain a license or on the day of conviction, whichever is later, and shall perform community service for a period of not less than 15 or more than 30 days.
In addition, the person shall satisfy the program and fee requirements of an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center or participate in a program of alcohol education and highway safety as prescribed by the chief administrator.
The penalties provided under the provisions of this section shall be in addition to the penalties which the court may impose under N.J.S.2C:33-15, R.S.33:1-81, R.S.39:4-50 or any other law.
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