Many teens and college students drink underage. Unfortunately for those individuals, underage possession or use of alcohol in New Jersey is a criminal offense. While this offense is not a particularly high-level offense, the penalties can be difficult to deal with and typically include a fine and driver’s license suspension. If you are a Rowan University student accused of underage drinking in New Jersey, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today to get help with your case.
The penalties can be a huge interference in your life and may make it difficult to proceed with school work if you have court dates to attend, if you are sentenced to time in jail, or if you lose your driver’s license and cannot commute to class. For a free legal consultation on your case, call our NJ attorneys for Rowan University students accused of underage drinking today at 609-616-4956.
Underage Drinking Charges in NJ
“Underage” in New Jersey, as in most states, means under 21 when it comes to alcohol. Even though you may be a legal adult for nearly every other purpose, the law still restricts people under 21 from buying or consuming alcohol.
N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-15 makes it an offense to purchase, possess, or consume alcohol while you are in a public place. More specifically, the statute lists the following public places where consumption or possession of alcohol is illegal:
- A “public conveyance”
- A “public place or place of public assembly”
- A car or other vehicle
If you are an on-campus student, you are always at “school.” Rowan University’s alcohol policy specifically prohibits alcohol in “dry” dorms that are primarily used for underage students. Although other dorms and apartments on campus do permit possession and consumption of alcohol, the University only allows it if all of the residents are 21 or over.
Since the prohibition on underage drinking only affects people at school or people in public places, it is not technically illegal to drink alcohol in your own home with your parents’ permission. However, you must still follow local ordinances in your town or municipality, which may be more strict than the statewide underage drinking laws. Check with an attorney for help determining your legal rights and restrictions.
Because Rowan University has its own alcohol policy, it is possible that University staff or your RA could refer your case to police if you are caught with alcohol in your possession on campus. The University might also take its own disciplinary measures against you for violating their alcohol policy, and you could face academic disciplinary proceedings. Our lawyers can also help you with these hearings.
Penalties for Underage Drinking for College Students
Underage drinking is a “disorderly persons offense.” This is not technically a “crime,” but the underage drinking statute is listed within the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice and is considered a criminal type of offense. This means that you can be arrested and sent to jail if you are caught drinking underage. Your case will be handled at a criminal courthouse along with other criminal cases, and you may face jail time and fines as a penalty. Because of this, it is vital to take these charges seriously and consider hiring an attorney to handle your case for you.
If you are convicted of underage drinking in New Jersey, you could face jail time, fines, and other penalties. For the court to convict you of underage drinking, they must first prove you committed the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Alternatively, you may plead guilty to the offense as part of a plea deal which could include reduced penalties. However, you should never accept a plea deal without consulting with a lawyer to learn more about the effects of pleading guilty.
Underage drinking carries a maximum of 6 months in jail and fines up to $1,000. Even though jail time is technically a possibility, it is exceedingly rare that a judge would order any jail time for a charge like underage drinking. However, the fines may still be quite high. Underage drinking has a maximum fine of $1,000, but it also has a statutory minimum fine of $500, making these charges somewhat more severe than other offenses.
Underage drinking can also result in a driver’s license suspension. Even if you were not drinking and driving, the court can still punish your underage drinking offense by taking away your privilege to drive in New Jersey. If your license is from another state, the State of New Jersey can only suspend your privilege to drive in New Jersey. However, your home state might also suspend your license according to its own rules or interstate drivers’ license agreements.
This license suspension lasts for 6 months. If you rely on your driver’s license to commute to campus or work, this can negatively affect your education or employment. New Jersey does not offer hardship licenses to give you limited access to your car, and driving on a suspended license is a serious driving offense that can carry fines and increased suspension terms.
To help avoid these penalties and learn more about your options to potentially avoid charges entirely, contact a criminal defense attorney.
Call Our Lawyers for Underage Drinking Charges at Rowan University
If you have been charged with underage drinking or underage possession of alcohol as a student at Rowan University, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our NJ lawyers for Rowan University students accused of underage drinking may be able to take your case and fight to get charges dropped. There are potential options to perform alcohol abuse classes and perform community service in exchange for dropped charges, and our attorneys will explore all options to help you avoid charges in your case. For a free legal consultation, call our attorneys today at 609-616-4956.