The law handles alcohol and drinking in a unique way because alcohol is illegal for some but not others. Most people know that it is illegal to drink alcohol if you are under the age of 21. Not only is consuming alcohol illegal for underage citizens but so is buying it and even simply possessing it under certain circumstances. People arrested for underage drinking are usually teenagers and young college students looking for a good time. Be warned, the consequences of a conviction for underage drinking may follow you well into adulthood.
The consequences for underage drinking will vary depending on the circumstances of your case. For example, drinking with friends in a public park may be punished differently than a conviction for underage drinking while driving. There may be other legal issues surrounding your underage drinking charges. If you purchased the alcohol using a fake I.D., you might face additional penalties. While the consequences of underage drinking can be harsh, they may be avoided if you call for emergency services. Underage drinkers may be immune from prosecution if they call 911 during an emergency.
Underage drinking charges are not the most serious, and many young, convicted defendants have their records later expunged once they turn 18. However, that does not mean the charges should be disregarded. Our Cape May underage drinking defense lawyers can help you fight the charges and hopefully reduce the penalties. To set up a free, confidential legal consultation, contact the Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Call us at (609) 616-4995 to arrange a meeting with our experienced team.
Who Can be Convicted for Underage Drinking?
Underage drinking laws in New jersey typically apply to people under the age of 21. This means anybody younger than 21 may be convicted for underage drinking and related offenses. Under the law, a young person can be convicted for underage drinking if they are found consuming alcohol in any school, public conveyance, public space, place of public assembly, or vehicle. If you or your child is facing underage drinking charges, our New Jersey underage drinking defense lawyers can help you fight the charges and even have them dropped if they should not have been charged in the first place.
Not only can people younger than 21 be convicted, but so can people who furnish alcohol to underage individuals, even if the person providing the alcohol is over 21. This might include people who buy alcohol for an underage friend as a favor, restaurants that serve alcohol, bars, and even liquor stores if they sell alcohol to an underage person.
Certain people cannot be convicted of underage drinking offenses. Parents or guardians who allow their underage kids to have a drink cannot be convicted as long as the parent is of legal drinking age. This means that parents may allow their kids to have a drink in the privacy of their own homes. They can even offer drinks to other kids as long as they have parental permission. However, penalties might be assessed if a parent of legal drinking age is not present.
Additionally, underage persons and people who furnish alcohol to minors cannot be convicted if the alcohol consumption was part of a religious ceremony, right, or observance. For example, teenagers who drink communion wine would not be convicted of underage drinking, nor would the religious leader who provided the communion wine.
What Laws in New Jersey Apply to Underage Drinking?
Several laws in New Jersey pertain to underage drinking. First, there is N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15, which governs alcohol consumption by those under the age of 21. Under this law, as discussed earlier, underage defendants may be convicted if they are found consuming alcohol in places like schools, public areas like parks, behind the wheel of a car, or in a bar or restaurant. They may also be charged just for knowingly possessing alcoholic beverages. For example, a teenage driver pulled over and found with a bottle of wine on the front passenger seat might be charged under this statute.
Another statute is N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-17, which applies to people who provide alcohol to underage drinkers. Under this law, a person can be criminally charged even if they are of the legal drinking age. The alleged crime is not the unlawful consumption of alcohol but the unlawful furnishing of alcohol to underage persons.
A common example of the unlawful furnishing of alcohol is buying alcohol from a liquor store for someone who is not yet 21. This is common on college campuses, where underclassmen might ask older classmates to buy them alcohol for parties. The person who buys the alcohol is charged and, depending on what happens, the person receiving the alcohol might also be in trouble. Other possible defendants include bars, restaurants, or other places that sell alcohol. A key element of this offense is knowing the person receiving the alcohol is under the age of 21. If you did not know the other person’s true age, our New Jersey underage drinking defense lawyers can help you fight the charges.
Penalties for Underage Drinking in New Jersey
The consequences for underage drinking are spelled under N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-15. Under the law, an underage person who knowingly possesses or consumes alcohol in a school, on public transit, in a public place, or in a car may be charged with a disorderly persons offense and fined at least $500.
The penalties for underage drinking may vary depending on where the offense occurred. When underage drinking occurs behind the wheel of a car, the court may suspend the defendant’s driving privileges for 6 months. If the defendant is under the age of 17 and therefore too young to even have a driver’s license, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission will be notified of the suspension. The license suspension will begin to run the day after the defendant turns 17.
There may be additional penalties under New Jersey’s motor vehicle code. According to N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50.14, an underage driver may be penalized for intoxicated driving with a blood alcohol concentration as low as .01%. The driver’s license will be forfeited to the state, and they will be banned from obtaining a driver’s license for at least 30 days but no longer than 90 days. The underage driver may also be ordered to perform community service for at least 15 days but no more than 30. Underage drivers may also face DUI and DWI charges in addition to everything else. These penalties may be imposed in addition to those mentioned above.
The consequences of a conviction for underage drinking can pile up very quickly, especially if you were driving at the time of the offense. Our Haddonfield underage drinking defense attorneys can help you challenge the case against you and try to reduce your penalties.
When Will Penalties for Underage Drinking be More Severe?
The penalties for underage drinking are relatively minor. An underage person caught with alcohol will likely not even be criminally charged. Instead, the police will issue written warnings and provide informational materials about public and private programs that provide services like counseling, mentoring, and alcohol education courses. Each time a defendant is issued a warning, law enforcement keeps the warning on file.
Penalties may become worse when other offenses are involved. For example, underage drinking leads to harsher penalties if the defendant was also driving. The penalties for underage drinking while driving in New Jersey may lead to license suspensions, revocations, fines, and additional penalties. Even if you were only issued a warning, you should contact our New Jersey underage drinking defense attorneys to determine if you might face harsher penalties in the future.
Consequences of Using a Fake ID to Buy Alcohol in New Jersey
Not only are there consequences for the underage consumption of alcohol, but there may be additional consequences depending on the way the alcohol was obtained. Alcohol is illegal to buy for people under the age of 21. An underage person caught purchasing alcohol may be subject to legal penalties.
According to N.J.S.A. § 33:1-81, it is unlawful for anyone under the legal drinking age to enter any premises licensed for the sale of alcohol for the purpose of buying or being served alcohol. This includes purchasing alcohol from a liquor store and being served drinks at a bar or restaurant. This also includes misrepresenting your age, like using a fake I.D. to buy the alcohol. An underage defendant may be convicted of a disorderly persons offense and fines $500 or more. These penalties could be in addition to other penalties related to the underage consumption of alcohol.
If you have been charged with any offense related to the underage possession or consumption of alcohol, call our legal team for help. Our Margate underage drinking defense attorneys have the skills and experience to help you defend yourself against these charges.
How Underage Drinking Might Affect Your Driver’s License in New Jersey
Drinking and driving is a very serious concern in the State of New Jersey. Many alcohol-related offenses come with penalties related to driving privileges because the state does not want people drinking and driving. A defendant facing charges for underage drinking could face problems with their driver’s license before they even get their driver’s license.
Underage defendants may face license suspensions under several laws applying to underage drinking. These penalties can be imposed in addition to one another, making for lengthy license suspensions. For example, being caught drinking and driving while underage may result in the suspension of your license for 6 months, even if your BAC was very low.
If your BAC was high enough to be charged with a DUI, you might face penalties, including license suspensions, in addition to the license suspension for the underage drinking offense. Many underage defendants are too young to have driver’s licenses, and they have learner’s permits instead. If this is the case, your license can still be suspended, but the suspension will not kick in until you can legally obtain a driver’s license.
Losing your driving privileges can be a major hindrance. People rely on their ability to drive to get to the places they need to go, like work and school. Our Ocean City underage drinking defense lawyers will help you fight the charges and work to keep your license.
Call Our New Jersey Underage Drinking Defense Attorneys
If you are charged with an offense related to underage drinking, you may need serious legal help. Our New Jersey underage drinking defense attorneys can work to help you minimize the consequences of your charges. Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4995 to set up a free legal consultation.