Articles Posted in Underage DWI

drunk drivingDriving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense in New Jersey, regardless of whether the driver is of age or underage. If you or your underage child has been arrested or charged with a DWI, you should speak to a seasoned New Jersey DWI attorney who is well versed in this area of law. You can rest assured that we can examine the facts of your case and determine a defense strategy accordingly. The stakes are high in these cases, so it is important to act quickly.

Under New Jersey law, the basic offense of a DWI consists of driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. If you are under the age of 21, the state only needs to show that your BAC was above 0.01 percent in order to convict you of an “underage DWI.” New Jersey has a zero tolerance policy for drinking and driving. As a result, the penalties for underage DWI are severe and typically include the loss of driving privileges for 30 to 90 days, community service for 15 to 30 days, mandatory fines and penalties, and participation in an alcohol and traffic safety education program.

If you are under the age of 21, and your BAC exceeds 0.08 percent, you will likely be charged with a DWI as an adult and subject to regular New Jersey DWI penalties. If you do not have a driver’s license and are under the age of 17 at the time of the incident, you will be subject to a 30- to 90-day delay in processing your driver’s license.

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Although the summer is not even half over, it seems like some parents are counting the days until the school year starts up again. But the fact of the matter is, summer vacation is still in full swing. For those families with junior high and high school kids, anxiety levels can be quite high as it is not unusual for some teens to experiment with alcohol or drugs during long unsupervised periods like this. While graduation parties are long past, family gatherings, vacation get-togethers and impromptu beach parties can bring youngsters together in close proximity to beer, wine and hard liquor; needless to say, the results can be very unsettling for many parents.

While some mother and fathers may feel that a little experimentation on the part of their teens is unavoidable, others believe it is simply unacceptable; the State of New Jersey is certainly sides with the latter. This time of the year, even teenagers who are just a couple years away from legal drinking age must surely feel that 21 is still a lifetime away. When parties and summer gatherings bring adults and kids together, it is not surprising that the temptation to sneak a drink an be strong for some of these kids.

As New Jersey DWI defense lawyers, we are not here today to argue the moral aspects of underage drinking, but we do have a number of caveats that any underage teen or young adult should consider before indulging oneself when alcohol is nearby and plentiful. Especially for those driving-age kids, the dangers of intoxication could have deadly results when alcohol in any form does not receive the respect that it deserves, and which can only come with age and experience.
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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.
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Everyone who holds a New Jersey driver’s license should know that a driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI) charge is nothing to take lightly. In fact, drunken driving and drug DUI charges can carry with them severe consequences if a motorist is found guilty in a court of law. As Garden State drunk driving defense attorneys, my legal team is experienced in representing drivers who have been accused of these and other serious motor vehicle-related offenses.

One area of DWI law pertains to those drivers who have not yet reached legal drinking age, but for whatever reason have been charged with drunken driving. A person under the age of 21 can be convicted of DWI with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of just 0.01 percent or more. This may seem like a rather harsh lower limit (especially when compared to the “normal” 0.08 percent for drivers 21 years of age or over), however this is the law and anyone who is underage and driving should seriously consider the consequences of being caught with even this small amount of alcohol in their system.

The penalties for underage DWI are listed in the New Jersey legal statutes (under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14). The law states that any person under legal drinking age who operates a car, truck or motorcycle with a BAC of 0.01 percent, but below 0.08 percent shall forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle in New Jersey. This also applies to individuals who have not yet attained their operator’s license, since the statute specifically states that someone found to have an illegal amount of alcohol in his or her bloodstream shall be prohibited from obtaining a driver’s license for between 30 days to three months.
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We see it quite frequently; the various anti-drunk driving campaigns accompanied by enhanced enforcement, such as saturation patrols during major holidays and late-night sobriety roadblocks on the weekends. In short, the apparent war on intoxicated motorists continues at a fairly regular and deliberate pace here in the Garden State. As New Jersey DWI and drug DUI defense attorneys, we know from experience that local police and state patrol officers take their roles very seriously when it comes to pursuing those drivers who may be inebriated behind the wheel.

Some drivers find themselves pulled over in the middle of traffic simply because they appeared to be wandering in their lane, when the reason could have been a minor distraction in the vehicle. Others might end up being flagged off the road at one of the many random roadside DWI checkpoints that seem to pop up at the most inopportune times. Regardless of the circumstances, however, if an office suspects a motorist to be even a slight bit drunk or otherwise impaired by alcohol or prescription drugs — never mind illegal substances like marijuana or cocaine — the gloves will come off an a much more intensive investigation will typically commence.

Of course, sometimes the police have reason to be suspicious of a driver’s condition, much less his motivation to avoid being picked up by officers for whatever kind of offense. Considering the reputation that New Jersey’s police have when drunk driving or drug DUI is involved, some people with a lot to lose will test the will of those law enforcement officers. Take the story of a Hamilton, NJ, driver who attempted to run from police following an alleged drunken driving accident along a portion of Interstate 95 last December.
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While police in Cape May, Ocean, Atlantic and Monmouth counties are all rather busy with drunken driving activity during the warmer months, it is a certainty that all during the year New Jersey State Police, municipal patrolmen and other law enforcement officials are kept active with DWI and drug DUI arrests no matter what the season. And it goes without saying, as the New Year holiday approaches, that instances of drinking and driving tend to become more frequent thanks to family gatherings, office parties and overall holiday celebrations.

As Garden State drunk driving defense lawyers, my colleagues and I receive our share requests for no-obligation consultations from motorists who have been accused of impaired driving. While there is no single scenario that illustrates a typical drunken driving arrest, if the police are following proper procedures it generally begins with a legitimate traffic stop for a driving offense or vehicle violation.

If there was no legitimate reason for the initial police stop, then there may be grounds for a dismissal of the subsequent DWI-DUI charges. Most people who are stopped by police and then arrested and charged with operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol are well advised to seek the advice of a skilled attorney with expertise in the area of drunken driving law.
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Here in the Garden State, the laws pertaining to underage drinking, as well as underage DWI, are very specific. Because New Jersey statutes clearly state that an individual cannot be younger than 21 years of age to buy, possess or drink any alcoholic beverage, underage drinking is, by definition, an illegal act. The consequences for underage consumption of alcohol can be very severe under New Jersey law, especially when the violation occurs in conjunction with the operation of a motor vehicle, which can lead to a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol if a young person is stopped by police.

Regardless of whether a young person is stopped for driving under the influence, and subsequently arrested on DWI charges, simply having an underage drinking conviction on one’s record could affect an individual’s future driving privileges in New Jersey. To be sure, when talking about underage drinking offenses, it is always important to consider the potential penalties attached to a conviction for underage drinking (also known as a disorderly persons offense).

For example, those individuals under 21 years of age who are arrested by a police officer for consuming alcohol — or even purchasing an alcoholic beverage in a licensed establishment — could receive a fine of at least $500, not to mention have his or her driver’s license suspended for upward of six months. For those more egregious offenses, there are other, more severe consequences. Depending on the circumstances, an underage drinking conviction may include actual jail time (up to six months) and fines approaching $1000.
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Here in New Jersey, as with the other 49 states, the minimum drinking age is 21 years. While rather unlikely, this restriction can sometimes be confused with the minimum age at which tobacco products can be purchased, which is 19 years old. Regardless, there are many people who argue that U.S. citizens who are old enough to vote and even join the military should at least be accorded the right to purchase and consume alcohol at a an age younger than 21 years.

In the Garden State, the Division of Highway Traffic Safety, as well as the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey formed what is known as the “NJ21 Coalition,” which is made up of representative groups from government, law enforcement and education, as well as non-profit agencies who are all opposed to any suggestion of reducing the state’s minimum drinking age.

Those opposed to lowering the minimum drinking age often point to 1980, when the state’s minimum legal drinking age was bumped up to 19. Preceding that legislative move, annual drunken driving fatalities among young people 18 to 20 years of age was at an all-time high of 88. Then, in 1983, the drinking age was raised once again to the current 21-year limit; the annual death rate among that same segment of the population dropped again, this time to 45.
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One often hears how bad things are in New Jersey for those individuals who find themselves in receipt of a summons for drunken driving, breath test refusal or any of a number of impaired driving charges. The fact is that the clock will likely never be turned back to the old days of a nod and a wink; when drunken motorists received a fine and maybe spent the night in jail, but mostly to sober up in order to head to work in the following morning. That was then, but this is now.

Safety advocates and anti-drunk driving groups continue to keep the pressure on federal, state and local governments and police agencies to rein in bad drivers and arrest those who operate their vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs. The Garden State is one of the states with rather stiff penalties for those convicted of driving while intoxicated, but that’s not to say there aren’t others with similarly strict laws and attitudes.

And legal statutes aside, society itself is less and less tolerant of those who drink and drive. But there are instances that cause one to take a step back and consider the issues at play. There was an incident that took place over in the Boston area not long ago, which illustrates that one situation where a high school’s policy regarding underage drinking affected one apparently conscientious teenager in a very negative way.
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With the school season well under way, high school students are in the midst of some of their most important years as they work on making the grade while preparing to go to college in only a few years’ time. For many parents of teenage children, high school — and even middle school or junior high — can be fraught with trials; not all of them academic. For some young adults, the temptations of alcohol and drugs can be formidable. Sadly, for some, there can be a failure to grasp the all-too-real consequences of their actions; parents of such teens should be aware of these as well.

While being young and impressionable, many school-age kids mimic their friends and family. Although most parents and other adults do a decent job of presenting good examples, others may not. In the end, however, the choice is not with the parents, but often with the young individuals who will ultimately feel the effects later in life. As New Jersey drunken driving defense lawyers, my colleagues and I are more than familiar with the numerous ways in which a person can end up on the wrong side of the law regarding an alcohol- or drug-related offense.

Drinking and driving is one common way in which motorists of all ages can run afoul of the police. For those underage drivers, a DWI is outlined in our state’s legal statutes (N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14), which read in part, that any individual who is under the legal age to purchase alcohol, and who operates a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of just 0.01 percent (and less than 0.08 percent) shall forfeit his driving privileges for a period of between 30 to 90 days. Even those who have yet to get their driver’s license will have to wait a similar period before being allowed to drive in New Jersey following a conviction for underage DWI.
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