While I and my legal staff are experienced in the defense of motorists accused of driving under the influence of alcohol, we fully understand the dangers of operating a motor vehicle while in an impaired state. Whether one lives in Morris, Ocean, Atlantic or Monmouth County, the law treats every potential offender with the same statutes, fines and penalties. As New Jersey DWI defense attorneys, my firm knows that when it comes to underage drinking and driving, the situation can be just as serious, and sometimes more so, than if the defendant was an adult.
Here in the Garden State, the law provides for a “zero-tolerance” policy where underage drinking and driving is concerned. As set forth in N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14, it is against the law for an individual under the age of 21 years to have ANY alcohol in their system while driving a motor vehicle. On the upside, if one can call it that, the law stipulates more relaxed monetary penalties and suspension periods for a young person convicted of underage DWI; these penalties are certainly less severe for an underage offender than those that apply to a driver of legal drinking age convicted of driving while intoxicated.
When considering underage DWI convictions, penalties can include a driver’s license suspension period of as little as 30 days compared to that of an adult DWI conviction of 90 days, at a minimum. Please keep in mind that although the penalties are reduced, it is usually wise to consult a qualified drunken driving defense attorney prior to showing up in court with one’s child accused of underage DWI.
Though it may be difficult to comprehend for some, teenage drinking — and by extension teenage DWI — is not an uncommon occurrence here in New Jersey. In fact, a study released a little over a year ago by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), stated that about 20 percent of young people admitted to researchers that they had driven a motor vehicle at least once while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (drug DUI).
All this said, we aren’t surprised when we read reports in the news of teenagers arrested for drunken driving. One such instance occurred in West Milford last month when three teens were hospitalized after the vehicle in which they were riding crashed along a stretch of Clinton Road. The driver, a 19-year-old man from Iselin, NJ, was charged by local police with driving under the influence.
According to news reports, police received a call to respond to a car crash at around 5:30am a couple days before the New Year. Police reports indicated that late model Toyota Camry had been heading westbound along Clinton Rd. when the driver apparently lost control of the vehicle. The car reportedly veered to the right, leaving the roadway and driving into a drainage ditch where it sustained what police called “heavy damage.”
West Milford police officers as well as emergency rescue personnel from the Upper Greenwood Lake and West Milford Volunteer ambulance squads arrived at the scene to find the three teenage occupants in need of medical attention. The driver and one of the other two passengers were taken by helicopter to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson, NJ, while the third man was transported to Morristown Memorial Hospital.
Crash on West Milford’s Clinton Road sends teens to hospitals, NorthJersey.com, December 30, 2011