Articles Posted in Underage DWI

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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Being long-time trial attorneys skilled in the defense of individuals accused of civil and criminal offenses, we understand how there are some people who still are inclined not to take a DWI or drug DUI arrest that seriously. However, as professional drunk driving defense lawyers, we can say without much hesitation that while being arrested may not always get a person’s attention at the time, being thrust into a DWI-DUI court hearing while facing some hefty monetary penalties usually does.

Here in the Garden State, my colleagues and I make it our job to help those motorists who have been accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or operating a motor vehicle while impaired by doctor-prescribed medication or another controlled dangerous substance (CDS). We certainly do understand the financial burden that a DWI or drug DUI conviction can have on many individuals, not only in terms of fines and assessments, but also in the way that a loss of personal mobility can affect the ability to perform one’s job or simply go about daily life.

It’s always interesting to read about the increase in anti-drunken driving enforcement as certain holidays approach or when vacation season is at its zenith. However, there are always local police patrols — as well as state trooper units — that are constantly on the lookout for potentially impaired drivers. Here in New Jersey, where the frequency of anti-DWI campaigns can be very high, drunken driving saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints are also common. Sometimes, there is no particular campaign in effect, but simply a police presence on certain roadways that have frequent DWI incidents.
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As drunk driving defense attorneys, my legal staff handles a wide range of alcohol- and drug-related cases every year. The defendants in those DWI-related cases have usually been arrested following a roadside police stop arising typically from a rudimentary traffic-related offense. Other accused drunken drivers may have been taken into custody following a traffic accident or an encounter with police at one of the many sobriety checkpoints erected monthly around the state.

Whatever the situation, those individuals who have been detained or arrested and subsequently charged with a DWI, drug DUI, breathalyzer refusal, or other related offense can often find themselves going before a judge who will hear their case. A number of the dozens upon dozens of drinking and driving cases heard every month across the Garden State started off as arrests listed in the police blotter pages of local and state newspapers and news-related websites.

Every week, for those who may be curious, the police blotter section of various news outlets pages enumerate a variety of scenarios in which average drivers have found themselves arrested and charged with an alcohol- or prescription drug-related DWI or DUI offense. Whether the arrest happens in Middlesex, Hudson, Monmouth or Bergen County, as professional DWI defense lawyers, my colleagues and I have participated in our share of hearings, from car or truck collisions caused by allegedly intoxicated drivers to those motorists accused of possessing a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) in a motor vehicle.
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Occasionally we run into news reports that illustrate many of the wrong things to do when trying to avoid DWI or DUI charges. Although the vast majority of New Jersey motorists arrested for drunken driving hardly expected that they would find themselves sitting at police headquarters and taking a breathalyzer test, a much smaller percentage of drivers could be said to be prone to being charged with drinking and driving. Still others may simply be unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As New Jersey DWI lawyers, we know that a fair number of people charged with drunk driving are actually first-time offenders who might otherwise, under any other circumstances, be considered law-abiding citizens. Of that group, there is likely a percentage who believe they did not deserve to be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or prescription drugs (drug DUI). It should be added that, in our experience, there are numerous individuals who may not have been legally drink at the time of their arrest, but who still were charged erroneously by the police.

From our perspective, everyone who is accused of a crime should avail himself of the legal expertise of a qualified New Jersey trial lawyer. As the law provides, everyone does deserve to have their case heard in a court of law. A news story we ran across from a couple months back could likely be termed a playbook on what not to do after having a few drinks. While we prefer not to make any judgments ourselves, suffice it to say that it is not advisable to A) run from the police when one is B) underage and potentially intoxicated behind the wheel.
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Given the population, as well as the number of motor vehicles in the Garden State, there are a fair number of drunken driving arrests that occur every month all across the state. In counties such as Middlesex, Passaic, Ocean and Cape May, throughout the year local police officers and state troopers alike make dozens of alcohol and drug-related arrests every week following routine traffic stops.

As New Jersey DWI defense attorneys, we understand that being pulled over for even the most simple of driving infractions can open the door to drunk driving or drug-related DUI charges. When a motorist receives a DWI or DUI-related summons, the clock starts ticking toward a court date, a possible conviction and potentially hefty monetary fines and other penalties.

It seems that no matter where one looks in the news, there is always some story that grabs the reader’s attention regarding an alcohol- or drug-related arrest on one of New Jersey’s roadways. The ubiquitous police blotter pages can be an interesting source of information on what not to do if one has a drink or two under their belt.
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Let there be no misunderstanding, there are few things more serious from the standpoint point of DWI than being involved in a fatal drunk driving roadway accident. And while it is usually the alleged drunk motorist who is charged with DWI-DUI following a serious injury accident or fatal collision, others can be implicated as well depending on the circumstances. As New Jersey drunk driving legal defenders, I and my staff of experienced DWI attorneys are well aware of the consequences of any drinking and driving arrest.

But aside from the driver who is accused of causing an accident while impaired by alcohol or prescription meds, occasionally a third party may be held at least partially responsible for certain DWI-DUI incidents even though that party did not personally get behind the wheel of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled dangerous substance (CDS).

The repercussions for some drinking establishments and retail outlets of alcoholic beverages are often held to a high standard when it comes to serving individuals who already are drunk. Take, for instance, a news reports that we ran across a while back that described a Vineland adult entertainment club that allegedly served liquor to a pair of underage individuals who later died in what police described as a DWI-related traffic collision.
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