Underage Possession of Alcohol

Belmar NJ Underage Possession of Alcohol Lawyer

Under New Jersey State Law (N.J.S. 2C:33-15) it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to purchase, consume or possess an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle, school, place of public assembly, public place, or on public transportation. If arrested, the individual can be charged with a disorderly person’s offense punishable by a fine of at least $500 and the potential suspension of his or her driver’s license for six months.

A criminal conviction of underage possession of alcohol creates a criminal record that will follow the young person for many years. The young person and his or her parents should take an arrest for underage drinking seriously.

Parents should immediately retain a defense attorney experienced with New Jersey criminal and disorderly persons offenses if their child has been charged with illegal possession of alcohol. The defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have extensive experience with alcohol-related offenses in New Jersey and handle cases of illegal possession of alcohol by a minor anywhere in the state.

Families from across the State of New Jersey are thankful that they turned to our law firm for help when they were facing difficult situations similar to yours. Our firm’s attorneys are former New Jersey prosecutors and public defenders who have spent decades dealing with cases in municipal and county courts across the state. We know exactly what must be done to protect your child and guide you through this trying time.

Our New Jersey law firm can provide a strong legal defense supported by our:

  • More than 200 years of combined experience in courtrooms across New Jersey defending individuals charged with juvenile offenses, illegal possession of alcohol and DWI / DUI offenses and other criminal charges
  • Ten defense attorneys whose legal practices are solely dedicated to representing the accused
  • Certified criminal trial attorneys, a distinction held by fewer than 2% of lawyers in New Jersey
  • Track record of litigating countless trials and getting charges against our clients dismissed
  • 24/7 availability to respond to your need for legal counsel and representation.

You can count on a compassionate and attentive response from our team. We’ll begin with a free initial consultation with an accomplished New Jersey criminal defense lawyer who will talk to you about your child and how New Jersey handles the charges he or she faces. We may be able to negotiate a reduction of the charges to a violation of a municipal ordinance, which results in a fine and no permanent record.

Do not wait. Having a skilled legal defense can help you and your child avoid expensive fines today and costly problems in the future. Contact our offices across New Jersey at (877) 450-8301 or online and set up your free legal consultation today.

What is Underage Drinking Under New Jersey Law?

Long before your child was born, Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, establishing 21 as the minimum age at which it was legal to purchase or publicly possess alcohol anywhere in the United States. The law defines alcoholic beverages as beer, distilled spirits, and wine containing 0.5 percent or more of alcohol by volume.

Prior to 1984, when the federal law was adopted, the legal drinking age differed among the states. Between 1970 and 1975, 29 states lowered the minimum legal drinking age to 18, 19 or 20. New Jersey reduced the legal drinking/alcohol possession age from 21 to 18 in 1973, but raised it to 19 in 1979 and back to 21 as of January 1, 1983.

A review by the U.S. General Accounting Office, conducted in 1988, found that raising the drinking age had reduced youth drinking, youth driving after drinking (DUI / DWI), and alcohol-related traffic accidents among youth.

It is federal law that makes it illegal for anyone younger than 21 to purchase alcoholic beverages. New Jersey state law makes it illegal for anyone barred from legally buying alcoholic beverages to possess or consume alcohol in public, at a school, or in a motor vehicle.

The law is about possession. Possession of alcohol in a car or other public place by a minor is illegal even if the alcohol is sealed. Possession of alcohol by a minor is illegal in a car that is parked and not running.

New Jersey law does not make underage drinking on private property a crime. However, many N.J. municipalities have local ordinances that prohibit underage drinking on private property where others may see it, such as in a backyard cookout.

Penalties for Underage Alcohol Possession

A minor found to be in possession of alcohol in New Jersey is considered to have committed a “disorderly persons offense,” New Jersey’s term for a misdemeanor.

A disorderly persons offense is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. New Jersey law says a person guilty of possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages while under legal age “shall be fined not less than $500.”

In addition to a fine, if the offense is committed in a motor vehicle, the court will suspend or postpone the defendant’s driving privileges for 6 months. This means an underage driver will lose his or her license for 6 months. A minor not yet 17 years old who is convicted of drinking while underage will have to wait 6 months after they become eligible for a driver’s license to get one.

The court may also require the convicted minor to participate in an alcohol education or treatment program.

Penalties for Driving with Alcohol in Your System Under the Age of 21 

Just as it is illegal to possess or consume alcohol under the age of 21, it is illegal to drive with any amount of alcohol in your system if you are underage.

A licensed driver younger than 21 years old who is convicted of driving with as little as .01% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can be penalized with a driver’s license suspension and community service. An underage driver in New Jersey whose BAC is .08% or more will be charged with DWI or DUI as an adult and face more serious penalties.

If a defendant is underage and charged with DWI, prosecutors do not have to prove impairment to obtain a conviction.

Upon conviction, an underage driver’s license will be suspended for 30 to 90 days, at the judge’s discretion. If the teenager does not have a driver’s license, he or she will be unable to obtain one for 30 to 90 days.

A person convicted of underage DWI in New Jersey will also be required to:

  • Perform community service for 15 to 30 days.
  • Attend an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center and complete 12 hours of classes, undergo a substance use disorder assessment, and pay associated fees.
  • Successfully complete alcoholism treatment if recommended by the IDRC assessment.

Exceptions to the Rule for Underage Possession of Alcohol

There are circumstances in which minors are allowed to be in possession of alcoholic beverages. State law creates exceptions for legitimate employment with a permit issued by the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control or at a hotel or restaurant or for working with alcohol as part of educational programs in the culinary arts or hotel management.

The law prevents prosecution of minors who, while in possession of alcoholic beverages, call 911 to summon help for another underage person in need of medical assistance due to alcohol consumption. The caller and up to two others are protected if they give the 911 operator their names and remain with the person in need of medical assistance and cooperate with medical and law enforcement personnel when they arrive. The underage drinker in need of assistance would be immune from prosecution, as well.

A person under 21 can legally drink alcohol if consumption is part of a religious ceremony or rite. In most cases, an underage person may also legally drink alcohol recreationally on private property in the presence of parents who permit them to do so.

Contact a New Jersey Underage Possession of Alcohol Lawyer 

Anyone arrested for underage possession of alcohol has the right to a strong legal defense. Unless you plead guilty, prosecutors must prove the charges in court to obtain a conviction. Underage defendants in New Jersey are adjudicated not guilty of possessing alcohol every day.

Particularly under a situation with many people, it can be difficult to prove that anyone teenager was knowingly in possession of alcohol. As a legal term, “possession” implies control of the item in question.

If someone who is of legal age to purchase alcohol (21) was present at the time of an arrest, the prosecution would have to satisfy the court that this person did not have legal possession of the alcohol found on the scene. Even among several teens in a motor vehicle, it may be difficult to prove that a particular teen knew alcohol was present and had control over it.

Sometimes it really is just a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

We understand that young people make mistakes, and we will work aggressively to help keep an underage alcohol possession charge from damaging your child’s future. Our firm invests the time and resources necessary to investigate and challenge charges of underage alcohol possession. Because we have relationships with prosecutors and judges in courtrooms across New Jersey, our arguments for dismissing or downgrading the charges your child faces will be heard and considered.

Meet with a N.J. Underage Alcohol Possession Defense Attorney Today

If you or your loved one has been charged with underage possession of alcohol in New Jersey, it is important that you retain an experienced defense attorney to fight these charges. With proper legal representation, there are opportunities to challenge the arrest and/or evidence and to avoid high-cost fines as well as a stain on your child’s record.

Contact the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall at (877) 450-8301 as soon as possible for a free initial consultation about underage alcohol possession charges. We have offices across New Jersey and can assist you anywhere in the state.