New Jersey’s laws against driving while intoxicated (DWI) – also called driving under the influence (DUI) in other states – have specific punishments for underage drinkers. “Underage” for DWI laws means those under 21. This offense can come with license suspensions, community service, drivers’ education, and other negative effects that can take away your freedoms.
If you or your child has been charged with an underage DWI in Atlantic City, talk to an Atlantic City DUI/DWI defense attorney right away. The Atlantic City drunk driving lawyers at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych represent people accused of drunk driving in Atlantic City and throughout South Jersey. Call today for a free, confidential consultation on your case.
NJ Underage Drinking and Driving
New Jersey’s DWI charges under N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50 make it illegal to drive a vehicle while:
- “[U]nder the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug”; or
- “[W]ith a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or higher.”
Most people focus on the “legal limit” of .08%. This number is a BAC (blood alcohol concentration). BAC is the literal percentage of your blood that is pure alcohol.
Driving with alcohol in your system is always dangerous, but affects people differently. The law puts the .08% limit as a firm line that no one can legally cross. The punishments also increase if your BAC is .10% or higher. However, you can still technically be charged with DWI if you cannot drive safely because of alcohol, even with a BAC under .08%. Driving under the effects of a drug is also illegal, with the same punishments as the higher tier of alcohol DWI.
If you are under the age of 21, you cannot legally drink, so the drunk driver laws are stricter. N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50.14 moves the “legal limit” for drivers under 21 years-old down to .01%. Very low BAC thresholds like this are sometimes called “zero-tolerance” policies. A .01% BAC is very low and could result from less than one alcoholic drink. A hangover or recent mouthwash use could even yield a .01% BAC.
The specific penalties under § 39:4-50.14 only apply for BAC between .01% and .08%. First, you automatically lose your license for between 30 and 90 days. If you were driving without a license or are too young to have a license, that suspension pushes back the date you become eligible for a license. You must also:
- Perform between 15 and 30 days of community service,
- Satisfy the requirements of the “Intoxicated Driver Resource Center” (IDRC) courses, and
- Pay any required fees.
Teen Drinking and Driving Penalties in New Jersey
The standard penalties for an adult DWI under § 39:4-50 apply if your BAC was .08% or higher, or you were under the influence of drugs. These punishments are harsher than the 30-90 day license suspension and 15-30 days of community service.
First, if your BAC is between .08% and .10%, the punishment includes:
- A $250-$400 fine,
- 12-48 hours of IDRC education,
- Possible imprisonment of up to 30 days,
- A three-month license suspension, and
- Approximately $325 in surcharges.
If your BAC is over .10% (or you were under the effect of drugs), the punishments are:
- A $300-$500 fine
- 12-48 hours IDRC education,
- Up to 30 days in jail,
- A license suspension between seven months and one year, and
- About $325 in surcharges.
Either BAC can also lead to punishments including supervision, community service, or the installation of an ignition interlock. This supervision is like probation, including check-ins with a probation officer. An ignition interlock is a device that prevents you from starting your car until it receives a clean breath sample. Penalties also increase for subsequent offenses.
If you are under 21, you may be eligible for preferential acceptance into a “supervised visitation program.” If your DWI is the result of physical, mental, or emotional issues, this program can help. Counseling sessions at the Intoxicated Driving Program Unit can get you the help you need to prevent further offenses. These are ordered as part of the terms of your supervision or as part of community service penalties.
Alternatively, there may be other programs available for first time DWI offenders. These help avoid some of the more serious penalties in exchange for guilty pleas and compliance with terms set by the judge. Talk to an Atlantic City criminal defense attorney about these opportunities.
New Jersey Teen DWI Attorney
The South Jersey drunk driving attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych may be able to take your case. Having a defense attorney in your corner can help you challenge the charges, beat evidence, get charges dropped or reduced, or beat the case at trial. For a free consultation with our attorneys on your DWI case, call (609) 616-4956 today.