New Jersey is home to Atlantic City, the biggest gambling metropolis on the East Coast. Not only does Atlantic City have many casinos, clubs, and restaurants, but it is also located right on the Atlantic Ocean. Its beaches and boardwalk make it a prime summer tourist destination for people of all ages. Unfortunately, some younger people try to flout the rules by gambling on the casino floors before the legal age of 21. They may not realize that getting caught gambling underage could result in serious penalties, including potential jail time.
At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our Atlantic City criminal defense attorneys have years of experience representing young clients charged with underage gambling. We understand that one mistake should not define a young person’s life and we will fight to get your charge downgraded or dismissed. For a free consultation, call our office today at (609) 445-3533.
Understanding Underage Gambling Charges in New Jersey
New Jersey law makes it illegal for those under 21 years of age to gamble. Specifically, N.J.S.A. § 5:12-119 states that anyone under 21 cannot “enter, or wager in, a licensed casino or simulcasting facility.” However, this law does not go so far as to block people under 21 from simply passing through a casino. It is legal for underage individuals to walk through the casino floor to get to another room, though if you stop and watch for too long, security may ask you to leave.
If you are under 21 and try to play or participate in one of the casino games, though, you are committing a the crime of underage gambling. Especially if you win one of your bets, the casino is likely to take a very close look at your identification and if it shows you are underage (or if it is fake), they will report you to the authorities. Security guards also sometimes conduct random ID checks of young-looking people on the casino floor. This crime is charged as a disorderly persons offense.
Online Underage Gambling in New Jersey
Online gambling is legal in New Jersey, but only if you are within the geographical confines of the state. Furthermore, just like with in-person gambling, you must be 21 or older in order to gamble online. Many online gambling sites have strict certification procedures, and in order to circumvent them you would have to produce fake identification and other forms of false documentation. If the site is raided and you are caught, you could be charged with not only underage gambling but also additional crimes like using a false government ID. You should reach out to an experienced criminal defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych right away if you have been charged with online gambling underage.
How the Criminal Process for Underage Gambling Charges Works in New Jersey
Once arrested, you will likely be taken to the local police station for what is known as the booking process. Sometimes, the police may decide to release you at this point with a summons telling you when to return for your court date. However, most of the time you will be taken to a holding cell or the local detention center until you can be brought before a judge for a bail hearing.
In New Jersey, since the virtual elimination of cash bail in 2017, bail is now decided by the judge using a series of holistic factors. Some factors the judge will consider include the severity of the alleged crime, any past criminal history you have, any history of not showing up for court dates, and your ties to the local community. While it is uncommon for a judge to detain someone through trial for an underage gambling charge, if you are facing multiple charges detention is certainly a possibility. You should always have an experienced bail hearing defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych fighting for you at this hearing to be released with minimal conditions.
After this, because you are facing a disorderly persons offense, you will be arraigned in the municipal court. At the arraignment, the judge will read your charges and ask if you would like to plead guilty or not guilty. An experienced criminal defense attorney will likely advise you to plead not guilty while they collect evidence and attempt to work out a plea deal with the prosecutor.
If you have no serious criminal history and no other charges, your lawyer can attempt to convince the prosecutor to allow you into a pre-trial intervention program. If you stay out of trouble and complete this program successfully, your charges will be dropped. If this is not an option, the lawyer will work to get the charges downgraded or a deal where you plea in exchange for a lenient sentence recommendation. If no deal is reached to your satisfaction, we are ready to fight your case at trial. Be aware, however, that there is no right to a jury trial in municipal court, and the trial will be before a judge.
Penalties for Underage Gambling in New Jersey
Penalties for underage gambling can be quite serious. The charge carries the possibility of a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. While the fine may go as high as $1,000, there is a minimum fine of $500 associated with this crime. This means that, if you plead guilty to underage drinking, you will have to pay at least a $500 in every case.
Call Our New Jersey Underage Gambling Defense Lawyers Today
An underage gambling charge can quickly turn a fun trip to Atlantic City into a huge nightmare. Young people can face a criminal charge on their record that could prevent them from getting jobs, as well as serious penalties including jail time. At the Law Offices of John J. Zarych, our skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorneys have years of experience fighting to bring our clients’ cases to the best possible resolution. We will leave no stone unturned in your defense. For a free consultation, call us today at (609) 445-3533.