While alcohol can be dangerous and unhealthy when misused or abused, it is not inherently illegal. Many adults of legal age enjoy a drink or two. However, people under the age of 21 are prohibited from drinking or even possessing alcohol in most cases. Alcohol-related criminal charges can be particularly messy because they tend to affect multiple aspects of the defendant’s life.
Underage drinking can potentially lead to jail time and fines. Additionally, the collateral effects of underage drinking charges could affect your driving privileges and future opportunities for school or employment. You should always consult an attorney if you are charged with underage drinking in Ocean County or anywhere else in New Jersey.
Our Ocean County, NJ underage drinking attorneys can help you deal with the charges and fight the penalties and other fallout. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 right away for a free case review.
Criminal Charges and Penalties for Underage Drinking in Ocean County, NJ
It is widely known that the legal drinking age in New Jersey and the rest of the United States is 21. Anyone under 21 is prohibited by law from having alcohol in their possession or drinking. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-15, there are criminal charges and penalties for those who engage in underage drinking.
Underage drinking may be met with charges for a disorderly persons offense and a fine of at least $500. You could also be required to attend an alcohol education or treatment program as part of your punishment.
There are certain circumstances where an underage person can lawfully possess alcohol. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-17, if an underage employee works in a restaurant, it is not illegal for them to carry alcohol to a table. Also, parents may allow their children to consume alcohol in their own home, and children may consume alcohol as part of a religious practice, like drinking communion wine.
If you are charged with underage alcohol consumption, speak with our Ocean County, NJ underage drinking attorney for legal advice.
Underage Drinking and Driving in Ocean County, NJ
Underage drinking becomes a more significant problem if the defendant is caught behind the wheel. Drinking and driving never mix, even for adults of legal drinking age. When an underage driver is caught drinking and driving, they could lose their license. Under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50.14, an underage driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .01% or more can be charged with DWI. This is far lower than the normal BAC limit for adults over 21.
According to the same law mentioned above, if an underage defendant was in a car while drinking, the court can suspend their driver’s license for 6 months. If the defendant was too young to have a license yet, the suspension pushes back when the defendant is legally eligible to apply for a license. If the defendant has a learner’s permit, the suspension kicks in when the permit is converted to a full license.
You could face additional penalties if you are stopped while driving without a license after having your license suspended or revoked for underage drinking. Penalties for driving on a suspended license begin with a $500 fine and increase each time you are caught driving while suspended. Speak with our Ocean County, NJ underage drinking attorneys for more information.
Going to Court for Underage Drinking Charges in Ocean County, NJ
The kind of court your case is heard in will depend on your age when you are arrested for underage drinking. Not all underage drinking defendants are minors just because they are younger than the legal drinking age. The age of adulthood is 18, but the legal drinking age is 21. An underage drinking defendant could legally be an adult or a minor. As such, defendants could be tried in adult court or in the juvenile justice system.
While the law applies more or less the same to juvenile defendants as it does to adults, the punishments and overall outcomes of cases may vary somewhat. The juvenile justice system focuses more on rehabilitation than it does on punishment. As a juvenile defendant, you are more likely to be put through alcohol treatment and education as a means of rehabilitation. However, adults can often take advantage of alternative sentencing programs and treatment as well.
The biggest difference is in legal procedure. Juvenile proceedings are conducted in different courts in front of different judges under different rules. Our Ocean County, NJ underage drinking attorneys can help you, whether you are an adult or a minor.
Expunging Underage Drinking Convictions in Ocean County, NJ
If you are a first-time defendant, it might be possible to expunge your criminal conviction. An expungement is like deleting a conviction from your record, allowing you to start over with a clean slate. When your conviction is expunged, all related records are sealed, and your case is treated as if it did not exist. You are not legally required to disclose a conviction to anyone after an expungement.
In some cases, juveniles can have their records expunged once they turn 18. For adult defendants, you might have to wait a few years after completing your sentence to expunge your conviction. However, judges tend to be amenable to expunging minor offenses like underage drinking, and our Ocean County, NJ underage drinking lawyers can help you explore this option.
Call Our Ocean County, NJ Underage Drinking Attorneys for Assistance
If you are under 21 and were stopped by the police for drinking, you might be facing legal charges. Our Ocean County, NJ underage drinking lawyers can help you navigate your case. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 today for a free case evaluation.