Just about every New Jersey teen has likely been tempted by alcohol at some point or another. From drinking at a college party to stealing booze from parents, underage drinking continues to occur throughout the nation. With one of the highest drinking ages in the world, the U.S. frowns upon those under 21 drinking alcohol. Now that spring has arrived and prom is coming up, many underage teens may choose to experiment with alcohol.

What may seem like an innocuous offense has caused serious harm to many young New Jersey residents. Being a minor in consumption of alcohol is a serious offense. It can throw athletes off a sports team, derail college plans and cost a lot of money. Underage drinking can also be physically damaging, especially to a young developing brain. Nonprofit groups like the local Shaping Summit Together have made it their mission to prevent underage drinking by helping spread awareness. The group recently noted that April was Alcohol Awareness Month, but encouraged awareness of the issues throughout the year.

Oftentimes underage drinking is done under peer pressure. Between parties and social gatherings, many minors feel the need to drink to fit in. But if a minor has just a small amount of alcohol and drives, they can be charged with a DUI, which can have some serious consequences. Even a .02 blood alcohol limit could result in the arrest of an underage drinker who is operating a motor vehicle.

A single mistake during one’s teen years should not ruin one’s future. New Jersey has strict underage drinking laws, but the penalties can be negotiable when it comes to court. An experienced defense attorney may provide insight and help to a minor charged with underage drinking or DUI.

Source: Summit Patch, “Local Groups Urge Underage Youth To Avoid Alcohol,” April 26, 2013