It’s human nature; we always want what we can’t have. But underage drinking laws exist for a reason. When a child faces any criminal charge, it can be one of the scariest and most stressful times in both the parent’s and child’s life. As a parent, perhaps you believe that your child should learn his or her lesson or might think that the crime is not that serious, but it is extremely important to protect your child’s rights and protect his or her future. Your child may have difficulty getting into college or certain professions such as the military or law enforcement. Institutions that award financial aid and scholarships will scrutinize your child’s juvenile record.
Though it might be tempting to let your child deal with the consequences of their decisions, it is better to engage the assistance of an experienced NJ underage drinking lawyer to assist your son or daughter through the process. There are far too many long-term consequences that must be considered. Villani & DeLuca P.C. is a premier law firm dedicated to addressing all of our clients’ needs quickly and thoroughly. Proudly serving Ocean County and Monmouth County, New Jersey, we will work thoroughly to bring you the best outcome possible.
With over 10.8 million youth in the United States, alcohol is the “drug of choice” for America’s underage population. In a recent National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse’s at Columbia University (CASA), study on teens and substance abuse, it states that almost three-quarters (72.5%) of high school students have had a drink. Four in ten (41.8%) are current drinkers. The younger and more often teens drink, the more likely they are to engage in other substance use. And, every year, numerous youth die on account of alcohol-related accidents.
Underage drinking costs the citizens of New Jersey billions of dollars every year. These costs include medical care, work loss, and pain and suffering associated with the multiple problems resulting from the use of alcohol by youth. This amounts to a shocking cost of $1825 per youth in New Jersey. Youth violence (homicide, suicide, aggravated assault) and traffic crashes attributable to alcohol use by underage youth in New Jersey represent the largest costs for the State.
It’s Not 1973
The first drinking age law in New Jersey was passed in 1846. It allowed the parents of a student under 21 to sue against a tavern keeper who supplied alcoholic beverages to their children. New Jersey’s drinking age was lowered to 18 in 1973 as part of a broader legal change which reduced New Jersey’s age of majority from 21 to 18. The state raised the drinking again back to 21 in 1983.
Know the Law (N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15)
Possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages by anyone under 21 years old is against the law. Any person under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages, who knowingly possesses without legal authority or who knowingly consumes any alcoholic beverage in any school, public conveyance, public place, or place of public assembly, or motor vehicle, is guilty of a disorderly persons offense, and shall be fined not less than $500.00.
Drinking and driving can lead to the loss or suspension of your license. The court shall, in addition to the sentence authorized for the offense, suspend or postpone for six months the driving privilege of the defendant. If you are caught driving under the influence and you do not yet have your license, your license will be suspended for 6 months as soon as you are eligible to receive your license. In 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 less than .08% will land you an underage DWI charge. That means that anyone under 21 years old can be arrested for drinking just one beer before you drive.
Providing Alcohol to Persons Under 21 (N.J.S.A. 2C:33-17a)
It is a criminal offense to serve alcohol to anyone under the legal age of 21 in New Jersey. Those who do, face a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 6 months imprisonment.
Exceptions New Jersey’s Underage Drinking Laws
It is important to understand that most of New Jersey’s municipalities have enacted laws (N.J.S.A. 40:48-1.2) prohibiting underage drinking on private property, such as in a backyard at a barbecue. Title 40 of New Jersey statutes specifies powers of municipalities.
Religious service – Minors can be served alcohol, and may possess and consume alcohol at a religious observance, ceremony or rite.
Employment – People 18 or older who own or work for a licensed establishment or BYOB restaurant can possess, sell, serve, and transport alcohol, and purchase alcohol from a manufacturer or wholesaler. However, they cannot consume alcohol or purchase alcohol from a retailer (e.g. liquor store, bar).
Licensed Establishments – Minors are allowed to enter licensed establishments, and while state law does not prohibit bars and nightclubs from having events such as “teen nights,” or “18 to party, 21 to drink,” some municipalities impose restrictions.
Do Not Wait. Contact Us Today.
Is your child facing an underage drinking related charge in Ocean County or Monmouth County, New Jersey? 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 underage drinking attorneys at Villani & DeLuca P.C. at 732-965-3350 for a free initial consultation today. The attorneys at Villani & DeLuca can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (weekends and evenings available).