Underage drinking is a problem in the United States, and even though many young adults know that it is illegal to drink alcohol before their 21st birthday, they choose to do so at parties and with friends. The Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center estimates that underage drinking costs New Jersey residents nearly 1.5 billion dollars to address underage drinking throughout the state. This is partially why New Jersey has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking.
If your child is facing serious criminal charges due to illegal possession of alcohol, illegally drinking alcohol while under the age of 21, or other alcohol-related offense the experienced New Jersey underage drinking attorneys of The Law Firm of John J. Zarych can fight to protect your son or daughter from the full extent of penalties authorized under New Jersey State Law.
New Jersey Underage Drinking Laws
New Jersey has a zero tolerance policy for underage alcohol consumption. Specifically, title 2C:33-15 under the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice deems it a disorderly persons offense for any person under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages. In addition, this statute also extends to a person under the age of 18 to knowingly possess alcohol without the legal authority to do so. New Jersey laws for underage drinking have also been extended to any person under the age of 21 who knowingly consumes any alcoholic beverage in any school, public conveyance, public place, or place of public assembly, or motor vehicle.
What are the Consequences of Underage Drinking in Atlantic City?
Many of our youngest citizens think that it is no big deal for them to drink when they are under the age of 21. However, they may not be fully aware of the consequences of their actions. New Jersey Law expressly prohibits a person who is under the age of 21 from purchasing alcohol, misrepresenting their age in order to buy alcohol, or getting a person who is over the age of 21 to purchase alcohol for them.
If you are convicted of underage drinking it will be classified as a disorderly persons offense. While this may be one of the lower offenses in the New Jersey criminal justice system it should not be taken lightly. Under the New Jersey statute if you are convicted of drinking while under the age of 21 without a legal excuse, such as a part of a religious ceremony, or in connection with a vocational training program, then you can be assessed a fine of at least $500. In addition, there are more stringent penalties that can be imposed including:
- Loss of your license and driving privileges
- Jail time of up to six months
- Up to 1,000 in fines
- A criminal record
Are There any Exceptions?
Underage drinking is not permitted in New Jersey. However, there are a few minor exceptions. Some people may not understand why there would be any exceptions to this law, however, these exceptions have been built in for good purpose, and the following exceptions allow someone who is under the age of 21 to consume alcohol:
- Religious participation – Alcohol may be part of certain religious faiths and ceremonies, and therefore if alcohol is used in connection with a religious rite, ceremony, or as part of a religious event than a person under the age of 21 may consume alcohol.
- In the presence of a parent or guardian – It may seem odd, but the New Jersey legislature has carved out an exception for parents who allow their children under the age of 21 to drink in their presence.
- Employment or education – Under this exception, a person who is under the age of 21 is permitted to possess alcohol if it is part of their employment such as if they work for a hotel or restaurant. In addition, if a person who is under the age of 21 is engaged in food preparation while enrolled in a school for the culinary arts then they may be permitted to possess alcohol. However, 2C:33-15(d) does not permit a person under the age of 21 to consume alcohol, but merely possess it.
However, while there may be exceptions built into the statute, this does not allow those who are under the age of 21 to engage in reckless behavior. Even parents who choose to let their children drink in their presence must be mindful of their child’s activities.
Facing Underage Drinking Charges? Contact our Atlantic City, New Jersey Underage Drinking Defense Lawyers
If your son or daughter is facing serious New Jersey state charges in Superior Court for underage possession of alcohol or consuming beer, wine, or liquor before age 21 he or she faces a disorderly persons offense which is criminal in nature and stays on one’s permanent record. The experienced criminal defense attorneys of John J. Zarych can fight to protect your son or daughter from the full extent of legal consequences, schedule a free consultation today.