Haddonfield, NJ Underage Drinking Defense Lawyer
Turning 21 is a rite of passage in the United States. For teens and young adults throughout New Jersey, 21 might be too far off, and you might begin drinking early. This is common, and millions of people do it – but it is still illegal.
If you are arrested or cited for underage drinking in New Jersey, you may face fines, license suspensions, and even jail time. For help with your case or to get help for your child, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our Haddonfield, NJ underage drinking attorneys fight to help get charges dropped and reduced and keep your record clean. To schedule a free consultation on your case, contact our law offices online today, or call us at (609) 616-4956.
Underage Drinking Laws in NJ
New Jersey, like most other states, makes it illegal to drunk if you are under 21. This age was set in 1984 with the passage of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which cut highway funding to any states which resisted the change to 21. Under NJ law, you can face a citation for underage drinking if you are caught in possession of or actively drinking alcohol while you are 21, and there are often other local citations for entering a bar or other establishment while underage.
Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-15, it is illegal to possess or consume alcohol while you are under 21. This statute applies to any kind of alcohol, and there is no exception for things like low-alcohol beer.
By the specific terms of this statute, the law only prohibits drinking or possession of alcohol in a public place. Specifically, the statute names “any school, public conveyance, public place, or place of public assembly, or motor vehicle” as the prohibited places to drink or consume alcohol while under 21. That means that, technically, you may be able to legally drink underage on private property. However, people over 21 cannot supply you with alcohol unless they are your parent or guardian or have permission from your parent or guardian.
New Jersey’s statute also has other exceptions to this law. First, you can legally possess alcohol if it is part of your job. For instance, working as a server or bussing tables permits you to handle alcohol in public, as does preparing food as part of your education or job, e.g., in culinary school. Second, there is a religious exception for alcohol used as part of a religious ceremony.
Penalties for Underage Drinking in New Jersey
If you are caught in possession of alcohol or drinking alcohol and you do not have ID that proves you are 21, you could face serious penalties. If you were actually 21, but merely did not have ID on you, the all charges should be dropped. However, if you are convicted and face the penalties for drinking under 21, you could even spend time in jail.
N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-15 makes underage drinking a “disorderly persons offense.” This is the lowest level of crime in New Jersey, but it is still similar to a misdemeanor charge and carries similar penalties to things like simple assault or disorderly conduct.
For underage drinking in New Jersey, you can face a fine of $500 to $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail. The fine is harsher than many disorderly persons offenses, which do not carry a minimum fine. While jail time is possible, judges are unlikely to order jail time for non-violent offenders. However, you could be placed on probation or under court supervision, which could require you to check in with a probation officer and report to alcohol screening. If the judge finds it necessary, you can also be sent to court-ordered alcohol abuse treatment.
If you were arrested or cited for underage drinking while you were in a vehicle, you could also have your driver’s license suspended. This suspension lasts for 6 months, during which time you cannot drive without facing additional penalties. If you are under 17 and do not have your license yet, your eligibility date to take the driver’s exam will be pushed back 6 months instead of suspending your privileges. If you are an out-of-state driver, your ability to drive in the state of New Jersey will be suspended for 6 months, but your home state may also suspend your license once New Jersey reports the suspension to them.
Haddonfield Underage Drinking Lawyer Offering Free Consultations
If you or your child was arrested and charged with underage drinking, you should contact a criminal defense attorney for help with your case. These charges can affect your driving privileges, driving record, and criminal record in addition to the steep fines and potential jail time. If you or a loved one needs an underaged drinking defense lawyer, contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today. Our attorneys offer free consultations to help with your charges. To schedule your consultation, call us today at (609) 616-4956, or contact us online.