Articles Posted in Underage Drinking

A 19 year old Toms River man narrowly avoided a disaster this weekend. He lost control of his vehicle on Route 34 in Wall, crossed the median, entered a gas station and collided with a gas pump. His SUV sustained considerable damage which prevented the suspect from escaping the scene. He has been charged with DWI, Underage DWI, and Leaving the Scene of an Accident. His case is scheduled to be heard in Wall Township Municipal Court.

Where an individual is below legal drinking age, he or she can be charged with Underage Driving While Intoxicated. This offense carries less severe penalties than a traditional DWI, for example, limited license suspension, reduced fines, and the conviction does not constitute a conviction for purposes of a subsequent adult DWI. The draw back of an underage conviction is the fact that it only applies where an individual has a BAC below .08% or no readings.

In this particular case, I suspect that the defendant’s age shall provide significant opportunity for the defense to mitigate his penalties. If the breath test readings can be suppressed or dismissed, the suspect may be able to limit his license suspension substantially. This is the angle we would pursue on this case.

My firm represents a number of clients charged with underage possession of alcohol in Ocean Township Municipal Court (Monmouth University students), Belmar Municipal Court, Seaside Heights Municipal Court, and Manasquan Municipal Court. These charges can have a significant impact on a young person’s future because, if convicted of a violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15, this is a disorderly persons offense which leads to a permanent criminal charge on your record. This type of offense will show up on background checks for future educational and employment opportunities.

N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15 is the criminal statute which governs underage possession of alcohol and provides in pertinent part:

§ 2C:33-15. Possession, consumption of alcoholic beverages by persons under legal age; penalty

We have been representing underage drinkers, mostly Monmouth University and Rutgers students, in New Brunswick, Ocean Township, West Long Branch, and Deal Municipal Courts for many years now. The associated charges usually involve underage drinking and, in some instances, providing alcohol to individuals under the legal drinking age. The typical scenario for police involvement is a noise complaint, someone acting disorderly, or simply some one giving the police a tip. We routinely witness instances like these in areas surrounding Monmouth University and Rutgers, and a story about such a drinking encounter was even recently published in the Asbury Park Press. The related arrests give rise to not only criminal charges but college disciplinary action.

We witness the horror of parents first hand when they realize that their child is facing a criminal charge after investing upwards of 40K for their college.  Thankfully, we are successful in almost all situations in having the charges downgraded to a non-criminal charge, often a municipal violation. This outcome allows the student to avoid a criminal record, something crucially important to their future.

The summer is here. School is out. You have so much free time! Graduation parties to attend every weekend. Barbecues all summer long. Liquor is everywhere, you aren’t 21 yet but it is so tempting, everyone else is doing it. You have a few beers, a few cocktails, the party is over and you feel okay to drive. Just a mile before you get home you are stopped by a police officer. He makes you recite the alphabet backwards, follow his finger with your eyes, and before you know it you are blowing into the breathalyzer contraption. Now you are sitting in jail facing drunk driving charges, all because of peer pressure and a good time.

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.

If you are under the age of 21, drinking and driving can lead to the loss or suspension of your license for at least 6 months. If you are caught drinking in a car 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. Even if you are from another state and caught drinking and driving in the State of New Jersey, your driving privileges in the State of New Jersey will be suspended for 6 months. You can even be mandated to participate in alcohol education or treatment programs, community service or pay heavy fines. In New Jersey, a DWI is not a criminal offense so you do not get a jury trial.

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