Juvenile and DWI Defense Lawyer for Underage Alcohol Possession and Drunk Driving Cases in New Jersey

In New Jersey, it is illegal to possess or consume alcohol if you are under 21. It is also illegal to drive with any alcohol in your system if you are underage. Whether you are a juvenile or a young adult, and whether you are in school or you work full time, underage alcohol charges can have severe consequences, and you will need to have an experienced underage alcohol defense lawyer on your side.

Underage Alcohol Possession and Consumption in New Jersey

What are New Jersey’s laws for underage drinking?

In New Jersey, it is illegal to possess or consume alcohol if you are under 21 in most circumstances. Under Section 2C:33-15 of the New Jersey statutes:

“Any person under [age 21] 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 . . .”

As you can see, Section 2C:33-15 does not prohibit individuals who are under 21 years of age from consuming or possessing alcohol in all cases. One exception is based on “legal authority.” If you have the legal authority to possess alcohol, you can do so without being charged with a crime. The primary example of this is serving alcohol in a restaurant. If you work at a restaurant that serves alcohol and you are 21, you are permitted to have alcohol in your possession for purposes of doing your job.  

The law also excepts cases in which an individual who is under the age of 21 is in his or her own home. If you are at home and your parents permit you to drink in their presence—and not during a party (or “public assembly”) at which other people are present—this is permitted under Section 2C:33-15.

In addition to prohibiting underage alcohol possession and consumption, it is also illegal to purchase (or attempt to purchase) alcohol in New Jersey if you are under 21. If you simply purchase (or attempt to purchase) alcohol, you can be charged with a disorderly persons offense under Section 33:1-81 of the New Jersey Statutes. If you use a fake ID to try to purchase alcohol (whether successfully or unsuccessfully) you can be charged with a third-degree crime under Section 2C:21-2.1. However, if you use someone else’s ID instead of a fake ID, you will only be charged with a disorderly persons offense under Section 33:1-81.

What are the Penalties?

As a disorderly persons offense, possessing, consuming or using someone else’s ID to purchase alcohol if you are under 21 carries up to six months and jail and a $1,000 fine. Section 2C:33-15 imposes a minimum fine of $500. The judge can also order you to participate in an alcohol education or treatment program, and, if you have a driver’s license, you could lose your license for six months. If you don’t yet have a driver’s license, you will have to wait six additional months to get your license once you become eligible.

If you get caught using a fake ID, this is a much more serious offense. As a third-degree indictable crime, this offense carries three to five years’ imprisonment and up to a $15,000 fine.

Underage Drunk Driving and Zero-Tolerance DUI

What is Prohibited?

Driving under the influence (DUI) can be extremely dangerous, and getting convicted can have lifelong consequences. In New Jersey, there are two separate DUI laws that apply to underage drivers.

  • Zero-Tolerance DUI for Drivers Under Age 21 – New Jersey is a “zero-tolerance” state when it comes to underage drinking and driving. If you get pulled over and your blood alcohol concentration is between 0.01 percent and 0.08 percent, you will be charged with a zero-tolerance DUI under Section 39:4-50.14 of the New Jersey Statutes.
  • DUI with a BAC of 0.08 Percent or Above – If your BAC is 0.08 or above, you can be charged with an “ordinary” DUI under Section 39:4-50. You can also be charged under this section if the arresting officer determines that you are “under the influence of intoxicating liquor” regardless of your BAC.  

What are the Penalties for Underage Drinking and Driving?

The penalties in underage DUI cases depend on the circumstances involved. If you are charged with a zero-tolerance DUI, you can lose your driver’s license for 90 days and face up to 30 days of community service. If you are charged with an “ordinary” DUI under Section 39:4-50, you can face thousands of dollars in fines and surcharges, loss of your driver’s license for several months or years, and up to 30 days in jail for a first-time offense—among other statutory penalties.

Underage Alcohol Cases Involving Minors (Under 18)

In juvenile delinquency cases involving minors, a Family Court judge decides what penalties to impose based on an assessment of the juvenile’s “best interests.” While the judge can impose the penalties discussed above, the judge can also impose alternate penalties such as restitution and counseling. If you are under 18, defense lawyer Scott Gorman can use his experience in juvenile cases to help you secure as light a sentence as possible, if not avoid an adjudication of delinquency entirely.

Additional Consequences of Underage Drinking and DUI Charges in New Jersey

In addition to the penalties discussed above, an underage drinking or DUI charge can lead to many other serious and long-term consequences. If you are facing charges in New Jersey, defense lawyer Scott Gorman can also fight to help protect you against:

  • Suspension or expulsion from school
  • Loss of scholarship opportunities
  • Loss of employment opportunities
  • Limited opportunities for housing and financing
  • Having a conviction on your permanent record

Request a Free Consultation in New Jersey with Defense Lawyer Scott Gorman

To discuss your underage drinking or DUI case with defense lawyer Scott Gorman in confidence, call 862-250-6201 or tell us how we can reach you online. We provide free initial consultations, and you can reach us 24/7. Our offices are located in Essex County and Morristown

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