The penalties for operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol under the legal drinking age are clearly outlined in N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14. It reads, in essence, that any person under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages who operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .01% or more, but less than .08%, by weight of alcohol in his blood, shall forfeit his or her right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of New Jersey or shall be prohibited from obtaining a license to operate motor vehicle in this state for a period of not less than 30 or more than 90 days beginning on the date he or she becomes eligible to obtain a license or on the day of conviction, whichever is later. In addition, this person shall also be subject to a period of community service not less than 15 or more than 30 days in total. Lastly, this person shall also need to be enrolled in a program with the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center or participate in a program of alcohol education and highway safety as prescribed by the chief administrator.
Elements of Proof
The prosecution must prove three separate things in relation to this offense. First the prosecution must show that a vehicle was “operated”. It is not necessary under the definition of “operation” that the vehicle be operated on a highway or publicly supported roadway, operation can happen in any place. Secondly, the prosecution must show definitively that the person being charged of the offense was in fact under the legal drinking age at the time of the operation. This information is easily obtained either via the person’s driving license obtained at the scene or by admission by the defendant. The final element of the offense that must be shown by the prosecution is that the person did in fact have a blood alcohol concentration above .01% at the time of operation, but less than .08%. This information is typically obtained via a breathalyzer test, the Alcotest 7110, and or a blood sample taken from the defendant at the time of the incident.
While the license stripping suspension and or prevention from obtaining a license is certainly a serious offense. The state is much more lenient towards underage drinkers, provided they are under the .08% BAC legal limit than they are towards normal drunk driving offenses. For instance, there are hardly any fines that are associated with this offense. The state legislature in deciding its policy towards underage drinkers is much more interested in rehabilitation than financial punishment. The maximum fine that may be imposed for an offense under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14 is $50 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 15 days, or both. The community service, as stated above, is a period of between 15 and 30 days, which can be therefore a minimum of 90 hours and a maximum of 180 hours of service. In relation to the IDRC program, the offender must be in attendance at the 12 to 48 hour program. Depending on the number offense, the price of admission in the program is different each time. For a first time offender, it costs $75 a day to be in the program. For a second time offender, however, the price of being in the program increases to $100 a day. Failure to attend this mandatory program is generally treated as being in contempt of court.
Mitigating Factors and Other Offenses
If you are charged with other offenses that happen to coincide with the commission of this underage DWI offense, the sanctions imposed for the underage DWI offense as outlined in N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14 must be imposed in addition to any other penalties that may arise from the other offenses. This means that even if you are charged with drunk driving under N.J.S.A. 39:4-50, you will still be subject to these sanctions regardless of the fines and penalties associated with the greater offense. It is important that if you are charged with the higher offense of DWI or underage DWI that you contact experienced attorneys to handle your case. Here at The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, we take great pride in our work on DWI and Underage DWI Defense. We have over 100 years of collective experience defending DWIs in the state of New Jersey. In addition to having four of our lawyers certified in the operation of the Alcotest 7110, the breath test device used in the state of New Jersey to measure BAC, we also boast three of only five attorneys in the state that are Certified Field Sobriety Instructors, instructors that know the ins and outs of the protocol that must be followed by police in performing Field Sobriety Tests. We believe our qualifications are unmatched and unrivaled. So please, if you or a loved one has been charged with a DWI offense or Underage DWI offense in the state of New Jersey, do not hesitate to contact our offices today for a free consultation.