Possession of Alcohol Underage in NJ Results in a Fine
Most people know that the legal age to consume alcohol in New Jersey is 21. If a person under the legal drinking age, or a “minor,” is caught holding or drinking alcohol in our state, the minor could face consequences that go well beyond a criminal charge. As we discuss below, a charge and conviction could also affect the minor’s ability to pursue future education and career opportunities.
However, if you or your child recently received a citation for underage drinking in New Jersey, don’t give up hope. Instead, get help from an experienced DUI lawyer who has handled underage drinking cases as both a prosecutor and as a criminal defense attorney. Contact attorney Jason A. Volet today. He will review your case in a free and confidential consultation and work with you to craft a strategic defense.
What Are New Jersey’s Underage Drinking Laws?
Under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15, a minor can face a disorderly persons charge if he or she:
- Knowingly possesses an alcoholic beverage without legal authority or knowingly consumes an alcoholic beverage
- In any school, public place or motor vehicle.
What Penalties Could a Minor If Convicted Of an Underage Drinking Offense.
If convicted of the offense, which is the equivalent of a misdemeanor, the minor could face direct penalties that include:
- Up to six months in jail
- A fine between $500 and $1,000
- Suspension or postponement of driving privileges for six months (if the minor commits the underage drinking offense in a motor vehicle)
- Mandatory participation in an alcohol education or treatment program.
The minor is not the only one who could be in trouble for underage drinking. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15(e) and 33:1-81.1a, the parent, guardian or other person with legal custody of a person under age 18 who is convicted of underage drinking can also face a fine of $500 if the minor is subsequently convicted of the offense, and the prosecutor presents evidence that the person “failed or neglected to exercise reasonable supervision or control over the conduct” of the minor.
Does an Underage Drinking Offense Go on a Minor’s Record?
Underage drinking is a crime. Just because a person is a minor when an offense occurs, it does not mean that he or she will be spared a lifetime of potential negative consequences for his or her actions. Under limited circumstances, options may be available down the road for getting a charge expunged. With that said, the risk of getting a conviction on one’s record makes it important to wage a strong defense now if you or your child has been charged with underage drinking.
Other Consequences for Underage Drinking in New Jersey
Sadly, the consequences of an underage drinking conviction go beyond the criminal penalties. Here are just a few of the unfortunate realities of life after an underage drinking conviction:
- Work. Many employers will reject a job application if the person has a criminal conviction on his or record even if it is a relatively minor offense such as underage drinking. Plus, certain career fields have licensure requirements that limit opportunities for those with criminal convictions.
- Education. With a recent criminal conviction or pending charge for underage drinking, many colleges will deny admission or financial aid to a student.
- Military service. It may depend on military demands and the needs of the U.S. Armed Forces. However, many military enlistments are held up or even outright denied due to criminal convictions.
Other intangible issues come with a criminal conviction such as the social stigma which attaches to it. Plenty of people will view a conviction as a moral failing or evidence that a young person is not fit for accepting responsibilities. While this view may be an unfair one, it is simply one of the harsh realities that a young person must face if he or she is convicted of underage drinking.
Defenses to Prosecution for Underage Drinking in New Jersey
In a few situations, an underage individual could be either exempt from the ban on possession of alcohol by a minor or immune from prosecution. Those situations are:
- A minor can possess an alcohol beverage if the minor is actually engaged in the performance of his or her job duties with an employment permit issued by the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, working for a hotel or restaurant or preparing food while enrolled in a culinary arts or hotel management program.
- If an underage person calls 911 and reports underage consumption requiring medical attention, then the person calling for help and the person receiving medical attention are immune from prosecution. If the underage person who called for help disclosed to the operator the names of up to two other people who were involved in underage drinking, then those people would be immune as well.
Public policy supports these rules. After all, we want minors to work and receive job training. Additionally, we want to encourage minors to “do the right thing” and get medical attention for a friend in need – even if the minor may have initially made a poor choice.
How Can a New Jersey Underage Drinking Defense Lawyer Help?
At The Law Office of Jason A. Volet, we aggressively protect the rights of those who have been charged with underage drinking. Some of the steps that we can take on behalf of you or your child are:
- Taking over communications. You won’t need to talk directly with the police or prosecutors. Attorney Jason A. Volet can represent you in those discussions.
- Reviewing the evidence. Jason is a former Monmouth County prosecutor who knows how prosecutors pursue charges against defendants, including minors charged with underage drinking. He can review the facts of your case, identify problems with the prosecution’s evidence and craft a solid defense strategy.
- Negotiating for a better deal. If you or your child wants to avoid going to trial, Jason can work with prosecutors and pursue a plea agreement that minimizes the consequences of a conviction. He can also explore sentencing alternatives.
- Fighting for you at trial. If your case goes to trial, Jason can bring many years of dedicated criminal defense experience to the courtroom on your behalf. You can be assured that your case will be in good hands, and he will put your rights and interests first at all times.
Don’t look back years later and regret your decisions after an underage drinking charge. Contact us for a free case review and get an aggressive criminal defense law firm on your side today.