In New Jersey, you must be 21 to purchase, possess or consume alcoholic beverages. The law is clear, concise and unrelenting on this point.
Facing an underage DWI charge? You need a defense attorney just as aggressive as New Jersey’s courts.
What Does New Jersey Do To Underage Drinkers?
Any person under the legal age who purchases alcoholic beverages and knowingly possesses them without legal authority, or who knowingly consumes an alcoholic beverage in any:
- public conveyance (subway or bus)
- public place
- place of public assembly
- motor vehicle
is guilty of a disorderly persons offense, and shall be fined not less than $500.00. Note that this penalty does not apply to people possessing alcohol because of their job.
That $500 fine is the baseline penalty inflicted on any underage drinker, regardless of their location. But if you’re caught with alcohol in your system while driving, your punishment will be much more serious.
What About Driving?
If the offense occurs in a motor vehicle, or you bought the alcohol that an underage driver consumes, you will lose your license for 6 months.
And while you would expect the State to be more lenient towards underage drivers than people who can legally drink, it’s not. Underage drivers can be prosecuted for DWI, even if your blood or breath alcohol level is less than 0.08%.
How Much Is Too Much?
New Jersey’s “Zero Tolerance” law states that any amount is over the limit. If you are under 21 and drive with any detectable amount of alcohol in your system (0.01% Blood Alcohol Content or above), you may be severely penalized.
Under The Legal Limit For Adults
If your BAC was found to be between 0.01% and under 0.08%, you’ll be tried in juvenile court. The penalties upon conviction, while limited by your legal status as a “juvenile,” are severe:
- Loss or postponement of driving privileges for 30 to 90 days
- 15 to 30 days of community service
- participation in a program of alcohol education and highway safety
If you don’t have your driver’s license yet, the suspension starts when you are first eligible to receive one. If you drive during the suspension period, in addition to penalties for driving with a suspended license, you will suffer enhanced penalties for being on the suspended list for this particular reason.
Over The Legal Limit
If your BAC was above 0.08%, you will be tried as an adult, and face penalties including:
- Fine between $250 and $400
- Up to 30 days in jail
- 12 – 48 hours in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center program
- Loss of driver’s license for 3 months
And finally, if your BAC exceeded 0.10%, your license suspension could be extended up to 1 year and your fine could increase by $100.
Can I Fight The Charges?
Yes, as in all DWI cases, there are numerous potential errors that could invalidate evidence the State plans to use against you. None of the intoxication tests used by New Jersey are perfect, and police officers routinely violate standard protocols. In many cases, the experienced attorneys at Levow DWI Law are able to have the State’s evidence thrown out entirely, making a prosecutor’s case difficult, if not impossible, to defend.
Facing an underage drunk driving charge? Call the attorneys at Levow DWI Law today to discuss your case. Your consultation is free; it’s a safe space to consider your options and decide on the best course of action.