New Jersey Teens Playing with Fire? Underage Drinking/DWI can have Long-term Implications

One of the many questions we get from prospective clients comes actually from the parents of teenagers who are facing charges of underage DWI. The first thing we explain to the adults is that leaving the outcome to chance is never a good idea. While the individuals involved in such court cases may still be children, flirting with a drunk driving conviction at such a young age is certainly not kid stuff.

As New Jersey drunk driving attorneys, the legal staff at my law firm understands that kids may be kids, but being on the hook for a drinking and driving offense is no time to leave a case of underage DWI to an inexperienced lawyer. Our skilled attorneys have nearly 100 years of combined litigation experience. We know the implications of any DWI or drug DUI conviction and we are ready to offer recommendations to those motorists who seek our counsel.

In the area of underage drinking and underage DWI, we understand that parents are often frustrated by the choices that some of their children make, especially as they are quickly approaching adulthood. Quite frankly, we can appreciate that it is a full-time job these days just keeping some kids on the “straight and narrow” path. The irony is that many parents committed similar transgressions in their youth, which can sometimes result in them being even more strict when setting boundaries for their own children.

Whether or not ruling with an iron fist is actually beneficial for a parent is a question for the psychologists, but as legal professionals we recognize that kids will often act out or disobey their parents as a simple act of rebellion. What these youngsters do not realize, however, is that actions have consequences even in one’s teenage years. And that’s where we come in as drunk driving defense lawyers.

In the course of our work, we see a range of clients who have been accused of anything from minor civil offenses to serious crimes. As drunk driving attorneys, it is not uncommon for lawyers to frequently defend adults against intoxicated driving summonses, but there are also those instances when an attorney receives calls from anxious parents about a young driving-age son or daughter who has been charged with DWI.

Like it or not, the laws here in the Garden State make it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 years to buy, possess or consume alcohol. The interesting thing here is that drinking alcohol under 21 actually has deeper implications that can affect a child when it is time fro him or her to get coveted first driver’s license. While the penalties for underage drinking (not DWI, just simply drinking an alcoholic beverage) can include fines, there is also the possibility of a six-month suspension of that youngster’s driving privileges.

For those kids who are as yet too young to even have a driver’s license, the law still has a surprise in store for them. The notion that somehow, as a teenager, one can avoid serious consequences is common belief. Frankly, if convicted of “only” underage drinking, a youngster who doesn’t yet hold a driver’s license will discover that the state has an automatic license suspension waiting for him or her when they are old enough to qualify for one.

As for those who have reached driving age and have their driver’s license in hand, being arrested for underage DWI can be a serious wakeup call. This is because New Jersey has zero tolerance for underage drinking and driving. Per New Jersey’s DWI statutes (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14), it is illegal for a person under 21 to have ANY alcohol in their body when operating a motor vehicle. That’s it. Zero alcohol and zero tolerance if you are caught and convicted.

Here at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, my colleagues and I have a complete understanding of our state’s DWI-DUI laws. Whatever the situation, when a minor child ends up facing DWI charges, or even a formal accusation of underage alcohol possession, parents should never hesitate to contact a qualified attorney to better understand their options.