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What Consequences Can I Face if Convicted for Underage Drinking?

Teens, adolescents, high school students, and college students are known to experiment and explore the acceptable boundaries of behavior and conduct. Unfortunately, it seems that teens are in a hurry to grow up and often bite off more than they can be reasonably expected to handle. One of these overreaches by teens and young adults is possessing and consuming alcohol even though the legal age for consumption in all states is set at 21.

Unfortunately, the inherent nature of alcohol means that teens and young adults who are just getting used to being independent or semi-independent are subject not only to their inexperience in adult decision-making, but also to the impaired judgment and lowered inhibitions that use of alcohol causes. While the possession or consumption of alcohol by an underage individual is a crime, it also makes young people more likely to commit other acts in violation of New Jersey’s laws.

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If your child is facing serious criminal charges due to illegal possession of alcohol, illegally drinking alcohol while under the age of 21, or other alcohol-related offense the experienced criminal defense attorneys of The Law Firm of John J. Zarych can fight to protect your son or daughter from the full extent of penalties authorized under New Jersey State Law. To schedule a free and confidential initial consultation for an underage drinking arrest or another alcohol related offense, call (609) 616-4956 or contact us online.

New Jersey’s State-based Penalties for Underage Drinking under N.J.S.A 2C:33-15 & NJSA 33:1-81

New Jersey authorizes state-level penalties for teenagers and young adults who are caught purchasing or possessing alcohol prior to their 21st birthday. N.J.S.A 2C:33-15 is part of the New Jersey Criminal Code and is one law that speaks directly to punishment for underage drinking. Section (a) of the law states:

Any person under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages who knowingly possesses without legal authority or who knowingly consumes any alcoholic beverage in any school, public conveyance, public place, or place of public assembly, or motor vehicle, is guilty of a disorderly persons offense, and shall be fined not less than $500.00.

This law actually sets forth several different scenarios where a young adult can face charges for underage drinking. First, a person under age 21 can face charges for purchasing alcoholic beverages. Furthermore, a teen who possesses alcohol and knows that he or she has alcohol can also face criminal charges. Furthermore, any underage individual who consumes alcohol in a school, car, or other public places can also face serious sanctions. Additionally, under section (c), a court may order the teen to take an alcohol education program approved by the Department of Health and Senior Services at the teen’s (or his or her parent’s ) expense. As this law establishes the offense as a disorderly persons offense, conviction under the statute will remain on a teen’s record and may result in reduced educational or employment opportunities.

Furthermore, section (b) of this statute contemplates the consequences when this act is committed in a car, truck, van, or any other motor vehicle. This section of the law can result in the suspension of driving privileges for 6 months and referral to New Jersey’s Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC). If the teen has not yet reached age 17, the suspension will continue to run until 6 months after the individual’s 17th birthday. Disregarding this license suspension can result in additional penalties.

NJSA 33:1-81 criminalizes the act of misrepresenting one’s age to purchase beer, wine, spirits, or other alcoholic beverages. Under the statute it is unlawful for an underage individual to:

  • Enter any store or bar licensed to sell alcohol for the purposes of purchasing or having alcohol served.
  • Enter any store or bar licensed to sell alcohol and attempt to purchase alcohol or attempt to have alcohol served.
  • Consume alcohol on the premises of a bar, restaurant, or other licensed establishment
  • Ask another person to purchase alcohol on his or her behalf
  • Misrepresent or misstate his or her age at the time of purchase

Offenses under this statute are criminal in nature and the minimum fine is $500 but penalties can reach $1,000. License suspension also applies to this offense. Furthermore, under NJSA 33:1-81.1 a parent or guardian may be required to attend any legal proceeding and can be subject to a fine of $500 for the offense and additional fines for subsequent offenses.

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Underage Drinking Can Also Be Punished at the Town of Municipal Level

N.J.S.A. 40:48-1.2 is an enabling act that gives municipalities, cities, and towns in New Jersey the authority to establish local ordinances against underage drinking, underage possession of alcohol. Under this enabling act, towns are free to enact ordinances punishing underage drinking by a fine of $250.00 for a first offense. Additional offenses can be punished with a fine of $350.00. Furthermore a license suspension of up to six months can apply, but a municipal judge has discretion on whether to impose this penalty.

Facing Underage Drinking Charges?

If your son or daughter is facing serious New Jersey state charges in Superior Court for underage possession of alcohol or consuming beer, wine, or liquor before age 21 he or she faces a disorderly persons offense which is criminal in nature and stays on one’s permanent record. The experienced criminal defense attorneys of John J. Zarych can fight to protect your son or daughter from the full extent of legal consequences call (609) 616-4956 or contact us online.