Hardly Kid’s Stuff: Juveniles, Pre-teens and Teenagers Charged with Underage Drinking/Alcohol Possession

While it’s easy to fall back on the old saying that “kids will be kids,” keeping today’s youth on the straight and narrow seems to be quite a job for parents these days. While many adults may have engaged in similar antics growing up in here in the Garden State, once they have children of their own it seems that the things that went on during the good ol’ days are no longer acceptable today.

As New Jersey DWI defense attorneys, we often see minors of driving age who have been caught operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. As youngsters, these individuals are generally less familiar with the affects that alcohol can have on a person. As a part of youthful experimentation, whether one accepts the practice or not, there is always a chance that a teenager or even a pre-teen may get in over his or her head. And it’s most any parent’s nightmare.

Like it or not, as long as alcohol is legal for sale to adults, there will always be some kids who try to get hold of some beer, wine or hard liquor. However, the laws in this state do not allow for anyone under the age of 21 to buy, possess or consume alcohol. Here in New Jersey, imbibing alcohol before the age of 21 carries with it potential penalties that not only affect the youngster in question, but also any adult who made that alcohol available to him or her.

Penalties for underage drinking include possible fines and a six-month suspension of one’s driving privileges. Some younger kids too young to drive may think they get more of a pass under the law, but they would be wrong; if convicted of underage drinking, a young person who doesn’t yet have a license will find an automatic suspension waiting for them once they are eligible to get their driver’s license. For some offenders, the court may even order enrollment in an alcohol treatment or education program.

Of course, for many parents it’s the driving-age kids who worry them. Combining youthful exuberance with alcohol is no way for a youngster to learn about life in the fast lane. Those underage individuals who are caught drinking and driving will find out very quickly that the law has zero tolerance for underage DWI. As the law clearly states (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14) it is illegal for anyone under 21 to have ANY alcohol in their system when driving a car. Period.

As experienced DWI-DUI trial attorneys, I and my colleagues understand the law, as well as the penalties associate with a conviction for drinking and driving as a minor. Although these penalties are less severe than what an adult drunk driving offender might receive, they still exist. For instance, an adult who is convicted of DWI in New Jersey can receive, at a minimum, a 90-day license suspension; while a minor in the same general circumstances may only see a maximum suspension of his or her driving privileges uf up to 30 days.

Whatever the situation, when a minor child is facing DWI charges or an accusation of underage alcohol possession, parents should never hesitate to consult with a qualified legal professional to better understand their options, as well as the future implications of a conviction for what many feel is simply a youthful indiscretion.