Holiday Parties and Underage Drinking in New Jersey

The holidays are here and you’re excited to take a break from school, hang with your hometown friends and celebrate good cheer. With holiday parties scheduled every weekend; liquor is everywhere … and it can be tempting. From reunions to family get-togethers, parties can lead to underage drinking in New Jersey while alcohol is plentiful (and accessible) and parents are often distracted by festivities.

Possession or consumption of alcohol is illegal in New Jersey if you are under 21 years old. It is also illegal to possess or consume alcohol under the age of 21 if you are on private property. So even if your family is hosting a holiday party with liquor and you engage in drinking, you can still be charged with this offense. A disorderly persons offense charge would then go on your permanent criminal record and can affect your future education and employment opportunities. Many (if not most) schools and employers do criminal background checks and an offense such as this could disqualify you for acceptance to a school or an employment position.

Know the Laws:

Underage Drinking in New Jersey (N.J.S.A 2C:33-15)

Possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages by anyone under 21 years old is against the law in New Jersey and comes with a fine not less than $ 500.00. In the State of New Jersey, a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08% or higher constitutes a DWI offense. However, if you are under the legal drinking age of 21, even a BAC of .08% or less will land you a DWI charge and suspend or postpone your license for six months.

Providing Alcohol to Persons Under 21 Years Old (N.J.S.A. 2C:33-17a)

It is a criminal offense to serve alcohol to anyone under the legal age of 21 in NJ. Those who do, face a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 6 months imprisonment for underage drinking in New Jersey. If you are hosting a holiday party, and minors are present, it is your job to ensure they are not drinking the alcohol. Announcing your policy to all of the guests could go a long way in providing protection for you if any legal consequences develop later down the road.

In addition to knowing the legal consequences of underage drinking in New Jersey, parents should also be aware of the dangers. A study by the American Medical Association showed that underage drinking contributes to almost half of all car accidents involving teenagers. Motor vehicle crashes are also the leading cause of death for U.S. teenagers. In a national survey conducted in 2013, 22% of teens reported that, within the previous month, they had ridden with a driver who had been drinking alcohol. Among students who drove, 10% reported having driven after drinking alcohol within the same one-month period.

The holiday season is a festive time with friends and family. Stay safe and take proper precautions to keep alcohol out of underage hands. Try to keep all alcohol in a separate and monitored area where the party is taking place – away from those under 21.

If your child is facing an underage drinking related charge in Ocean County or Monmouth County, New Jersey, you don’t have to face it alone. Violations of this law may be charged as a disorderly person’s offense, also known as a misdemeanor, and will appear on his or her criminal record. Contact the New Jersey underage drinking attorneys at Villani & DeLuca P.C. at 732-965-3350 for a free initial consultation today. The lawyers at Villani & DeLuca can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (weekends and evenings available).