Jersey Legal Defense Update: A Look at Kids and Underage Drunken Driving Charges

It’s no secret that the state of New Jersey has heavy penalties for motorists convicted of driving drunk on public roads. What many people don’t know, however, is that state law also has penalties for teenagers and other minors who arecaught driving under the influence of alcohol, or even possession of beer, wine or hard liquor.

As a New Jersey DWI defense lawyer, I and my colleagues know how serious it can be for anyone under 21 years old who is convicted of intoxicated driving. By law, a person must 21 or older to consume, buy or even be in possession of an alcoholic beverage. This includes any drink containing alcohol. Basically, underage drinking is strictly illegal here in the Garden State.

Both the police and our court system have little tolerance for underage drinking and possession of alcohol, much less underage driving. This why the legal consequences are fairly severe when it comes to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Even if a young person is not arrested for DWI, just being convicted of drinking alcohol as a minor can have an impact on that individual’s future driving privileges when he or she is eligible to begin operating a motor vehicle. As drunk driving defense attorneys for Monmouth, Ocean, Bergen and most other counties around the state, we understand the downside that underage DWI, consumption or possession of alcohol can have later in life.

Here in New Jersey, if a person under 21 years old is arrested for buying or drinking a can of beer or liquor of any kind in a business that is licensed to sell alcohol, that underage individual could receive a fine of $500, not to mention lose his of her driver’s license in the process — for up to six months. Parents of minors who are not yet driving need to think about this for a moment; even though a minor is not yet a licensed driver, any potential license suspension will begin as soon as that child is eligible to receive his driver’s license.

Furthermore, many people are surprised to learn that young people who are found guilty of violating the law as it pertains to underage drinking can sometimes be ordered by the court to attend an alcohol treatment or education program. It doesn’t take much drinking to be arrested and possibly convicted. In fact, anyone under 21 found to have even a small amount — as little as 0.01 percent blood-alcohol content – can be subject to: A) loss or postponement of driving privileges for up to three months; B) a sentence of 15 to 30 days of community service; and C) successfully completing an alcohol education and highway safety program.

For these reasons alone, much less any other potential consequences of driving while intoxicated, it is always prudent to consult a qualified New Jersey DWI attorney whenever a minor child is involved in or accused of underage drunken driving or alcohol consumption/possession.