Most people know that being charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey is a very serious offense. We tend to imagine that most drivers charged with DWIs are adults who had a few too many drinks at a bar or party. However, drivers under the age of 21 are also frequently stopped and charged with DWIs. If you are younger than 21 and have recently been charged with a DWI, your penalties will be a bit different than usual.
When anyone, no matter how young or old, is charged with a DWI, they will face typical consequences like fines and license suspensions. However, there may be different or additional consequences if the driver is under the legal drinking age of 21. The legal limit for alcohol in your body is much lower for underage drivers, so it requires fewer drinks to be legally intoxicated. Also, if the driver does not yet have a license, they will be barred from obtaining one for 30 to 90 days after becoming eligible. There may also be additional penalties for simply having alcohol while underage.
If your child has been charged with a DWI while under the age of 21, call our New Jersey DWI attorneys for assistance. We can help with their DWI charges in addition to any other criminal charges related to the underage consumption of alcohol. Call Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to schedule a free legal consultation.
DWI Penalties for Underage Drivers in NJ
To be considered “underage” for a DWI, a driver must be younger than 21 years. Remember, when talking about DWIs and alcohol-related offenses, “underage” does not mean younger than 18. You can be 18, 19, or 20 years old and be considered underage for a DWI. The penalties for underage DWI defendants include the same penalties as for adult drivers. However, underage drivers may face penalties for driving with less alcohol in their systems.
An underage driver can also be charged with a DWI with a much lower blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Ordinarily, drivers can be charged with a DWI if their BAC is at least .08%. However, for underage drivers, DWI charges are possible with a BAC of only .01%. Because it is illegal for an underage driver to have any alcohol in their system whatsoever, they may be charged when their BAC is below the standard legal limit.
According to N.J.S.A. § 39:4-50.14, an underage driver with a BAC of at least .01% but under .08% will forfeit their right to drive for at least 30 days and no more than 90 days. They will also be banned from obtaining a driver’s license for at least 30 days but no longer than 90 days after becoming eligible. However, once an underage driver has a BAC of at least .08%, the standard penalties kick in.
If your child is facing DWI charges, call our South Jersey DWI lawyers for help. We can help you understand the charges in your child’s case and how the penalties may impact their future.
Standard Penalties for DWIs as Applied to Underage Drivers
The penalties for DWIs for underage drivers are unique because underage drivers may be penalized for driving with a BAC much lower than the standard legal limit of .08%. However, if an underage driver is charged with a DWI and has a BAC equal to or greater than the .08 standard limit, the ordinary penalties will apply.
For driving with a BAC of at least .08% but less than .10%, a defendant may be fined at least $250 but may be fined as much as $400. They will also be prohibited from driving until they install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. These penalties apply to both underage drivers and drivers over the legal drinking age.
As your BAC increases, so do the penalties and fines for your DWI. For a BAC of at least .10% or more, the fines increase to at least $300, but may be no more than $500. If your BAC were .15% or higher, you would lose your license for at least 4 months but no more than 6 in addition to installing an ignition interlock device in your car.
For underage drivers, the ignition interlock device requirement may pose a problem. Many underage drivers do not own their own cars and may be driving their parent’s car or share their car with a sibling. In such cases, the ignition interlock device may not be feasible as it interferes with other drivers who did not drive drunk. This could mean that without an ignition interlock device on any vehicle, the underage driver cannot legally drive at all. In general, the higher your BAC and the more DWIs on your record, the longer you must have the ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle.
Additional Consequences for Underage Drunk Driving in NJ
If you are underage and charged with a DWI, you may end up charged with additional criminal offenses related to alcohol. People under the age of 21 should not be buying or consuming alcohol at all. Even if they are not behind the wheel of a car, it is illegal for an underage person to have alcohol. You could face other charges and penalties in addition to your DWI.
The fact that you are underage and intoxicated when arrested for your DWI may provide the police with enough reason to search your vehicle. They may find containers of alcohol, a receipt of purchase, and a fake ID. All this evidence points to the illegal purchase of alcohol using a fake ID. According to N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-15, this may result in additional fines of at least $500. An underage driver caught with alcohol inside their vehicle may lose their license for 6 months in addition to any DWI penalties and suspensions.
Call Our NJ Underage DWI Lawyers
If your child has been charged with an underage DWI, you need to speak with a qualified lawyer at once. Our Cape May DWI lawyers can help you challenge the charges and fight to keep your license. Call Law Offices of John J. Zarych at (609) 616-4956 to get help from our experienced team.