New Jersey DWI Law: Potential Impact of Underage Drinking and Driving

Having defended many minors charged with underage drinking and DWI, I have more than enough experience to state a number of significant facts. As a New Jersey drunk driving defense lawyer, I know that a conviction for underage drinking and driving can make a serious impact on a young person who is just setting out on his or her journey toward adulthood.

The facts are simple: If any person under 21 years is found to have purchased or consumed an alcoholic beverage in an establishment licensed to sell alcohol, that young person could be fined up to $500. Furthermore, the court can order that the defendant lose his or her driver’s license for up to six months.

If you think this doesn’t affect someone who hasn’t even been issued a license, you would be mistaken. Parents themselves should be aware that even if your child does not yet hold a license, if convicted the potential suspension will start as soon as your youngster is initially eligible to receive that license. Just like adults, any young person who violates the state’s underage drinking laws may also be required by the court to attend an alcohol treatment or education program.

New Jersey’s laws regarding underage drinking and driving are very specific. Since a person must be 21 years or older to buy, possess or drink any alcoholic beverage, underage drinking is by definition illegal. Drinking and driving goes without saying. The consequences for underage drinking are very harsh here in New Jersey, especially when it comes to operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

But whether or not you are stopped for DWI, an underage drinking offense could affect your driving privileges now or in the future. Anyone under 21 caught with even the slightest amount of alcohol in their system — which means a blood-alcohol content of 0.01 or more — will be subject to a number of penalties under New Jersey law. These include the following:

  • Loss or postponement of driving privileges for 30 to 90 days
  • 15 to 30 days of community service
  • Successful completion of the program requirements of an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center or an alcohol education and highway safety program

It is very important that if your child or young relative is charged with underage drinking and driving, we highly recommend that you seek the services of an attorney experienced in defending persons charged with underage DWI offenses. Having served as a municipal prosecutor in my early career, I know first-hand how the prosecution approaches such cases. You should always have a qualified legal professional at your side in these circumstances.