Our Team of Former Prosecutors & Skilled Atlantic City Gambling Defense Lawyers Have Achieved Countless Dismissals
Our attorneys receive hundreds of inquiries annually from scared parents and young adults seeking representation for Atlantic City underage gambling charges. The first thing we tell these individuals is that it does not matter whether they were charged at Borgata, Hard Rock, Tropicana, Harrah’s or another casino, there is no plea bargaining of an underage gambling offense in Atlantic City Municipal Court.
Your son or daughter could be the most wonderful example of what a parent would want in a child yet there is historically no ability for the prosecutor to exercise discretion and plea bargain the charge to something non-criminal. The reason for this statement stems from the fact that casinos are strictly prohibited by the Division of Gaming Enforcement from relaxing enforcement of the underage gambling regulation contained in the Casino Control Act (the Act). If a casino deviates from this restriction, even where the play was but a few seconds on a slot or video machine, it risks stiff sanction from the Casino Control Commission.
The lawyers at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall know how underage gambling cases work as well as anyone, as our lawyers have not only handled many underage gambling charges in Atlantic City, but also because the head of our firm was formerly employed at the Casino Control Commission. If you would like to speak to a juvenile defense lawyer with decades of experience defending Atlantic City underage gambling offenses, contact our Atlantic County Office at (609) 616-0020. Attorneys are available 24/7 to take your call and initial consultations are free of charge.
The New Jersey Underage Gambling Law: N.J.S.A. 5:12-119
A criminal charge for underage gambling in Atlantic City or anywhere else in New Jersey is governed by N.J.S. 5:12-119. This law provides, in pertinent part, that:
N.J. Stat. § 5:12-119 (2010) Gaming by certain persons prohibited; penalties; defenses
a. No person under the age at which a person is authorized to purchase and consume alcoholic beverages shall enter, or wager in, a licensed casino or simulcasting facility; provided, however, that such a person may enter a casino or simulcasting facility by way of passage to another room, and provided further, however, that any such person who is licensed or registered under the provisions of the “Casino Control Act,” P.L. 1977, c. 110, may enter a casino or simulcasting facility in the regular course of the person’s permitted activities.
Any person who violates this subsection shall be guilty of a disorderly persons offense and shall be fined not less than $ 500 and not more than $ 1,000. In addition, the court shall suspend or postpone the person’s license to operate a motor vehicle for six months.
What You Need To Know About An Underage Gambling Offense
The above statute makes it a criminal offense (disorderly persons offense) for someone to engage in underage gambling in New Jersey, whether its at a casino, race track or any other context. What you should also immediately note from the statute is that it prohibits presence on the casino floor of anyone underage altogether except “by way of passage to another room.” Someone under the legal drinking age of 21 cannot watch, assist or be otherwise present on the casino floor of the Tropicana, Borgata, Hard Rock, Harrah’s or another venue other than to walk through the area to reach another location. The event of actually putting a coin in a slot or video machine or placing a formal bet at a blackjack, roulette, craps or other table isn’t actually required in order for N.J.S.A. 5:12-119 to be violated. When there is evidence to support gambling (e.g. surveillance video, eyewitness account, receipts, etc.), the prosecutor in Atlantic City has an added avenue for proving a violation of this law.
A conviction for underage gambling carries numerous penalties and consequences. First, a plea or finding of guilt results in a criminal record that cannot be expunged for at least 5 years. The second thing that happens if you are convicted is that you may be sentenced to up to 6 months in the county jail and fined up to $1,000. The judge is also required to suspend your driving privileges for 6 months.
Defenses To An Underage Gambling Charge in Atlantic City
The primary defense to an underage gambling offense is that the casino simply cannot sustain its burden of proving guilt beyond reasonable doubt. This may come from a direct attack on the allegations that the accused placed a bet or collaterally, for example, by virtue of an inability to produce a key witness or document. Another avenue that we pursue and which has proven highly successful in the past is to file a de minimis motion with the Atlantic County Superior Court. In this regard, N.J.S.A. 2C:2-11 allows the assignment judge of the county court to dismiss a criminal offense if, irrespective of the defendant’s guilt or innocence, the conduct is too trivial to warrant prosecution. When all else fails, a first time offender may also apply for a Conditional Dismissal to avoid a conviction. This program typically involves one year of probation with a dismissal of the charge for underage gambling upon successful completion. An individual can thereafter apply for expungement of the arrest once a six month waiting period has elapsed.
Allowing an Underage Person to Gamble: N.J.S. 5:12-119(c). It is also a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey for an adult to allow an underage person to gamble.
Underage Gambling Attorneys in Atlantic City
An underage gambling case is clearly much more complex than you might have thought. There are limitations on plea bargaining that exist in this arena which simply do not have to be dealt with by our attorneys in other areas of criminal defense. It is particularly important to select the very best lawyer you can find if you want to avoid a record and other consequences that flow from a conviction under 5:12-119. We believe that the lawyers at our firm, the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall, represent an extremely formidable option in this regard with over 150 years of combined experience serving as prosecutors, representing clients like you and even being employed at the Casino Control Commission. To obtain a free consultation with an attorney, call (609) 616-0020 for a thorough review of your case.
Related Atlantic County Legal Resource Pages
Atlantic County Juvenile Attorney