You can drive at 17, smoke tobacco at 18, and even go to war and use weapons at 18. Nevertheless, to drink or possess alcohol in New Jersey, you must be 21. In addition, anyone who provides alcohol to minors may be charged with a criminal offense under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-17. If police arrest and charge you with providing alcohol to minors, your case will be heard in the local municipal court in the town where the alleged offense took place. You will be given the option of pleading guilty to this offense, seeking an amended charge, filing motions to exclude evidence or have the charges dismissed, or having a trial. A municipal court trial occurs before a judge and is decided by him or her after hearing the prosecution and defense’s respective arguments. When you find yourself in this tenuous situation, having an experienced criminal defense attorney representing your case can turn the tide in your favor and help you avoid the consequences of a conviction, which may include up to 6 months in jail.
If you have been charged with providing alcohol to minors, our highly skilled Union County criminal defense lawyers can help you get through this difficult time and put it behind you. With years of experience practicing criminal defense, the lawyers at our local firm have the foresight to assist you with successfully resolving your case in Union Township, Elizabeth, Roselle, Linden, Westfield, Cranford, Roselle Park, and other nearby areas. To discuss your case and receive a free consultation, contact our office in Cranford at (908) 838-0150 today.
Providing alcohol to minors offenses in New Jersey
Providing alcohol to minors is a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey if committed under certain circumstances. For instance, the law does not make it an offense for a parent or legal guardian of legal age to allow a minor to imbibe or to observe a religious ceremony with the use of alcohol. The parent or guardian can also consent to the minor consuming alcohol when he or she is present. However, an adult or anyone who provides alcohol to a minor, absent the presence of their parent or without their permission, can face charges for a disorderly persons offense. This happens often when parents of a teen want to host a party at the insistence of their child. If the parents acquiesce and allow consumption of alcohol by minors on the premises, they can be charged criminally in New Jersey. If the parent, homeowner, or adult, “encourages” or “entices” the minor to drink, this also warrants charges under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-17.
If you think about it in terms of safety, it makes sense. Parents send their kids out and about every day. Of course, parents hope that their children remain safe and return home unscathed. Providing or encouraging the use of alcohol by underage persons arguably threatens their safety, particularly if a minor drinks and drives, which is why NJ law prohibits such behavior. Even allowing your child or another to host a party in your absence may subject you to charges for providing alcohol to minors. Often, we see parents or adults who purchase alcohol or allow their children to host parties or friends knowing that alcohol will be consumed. If it can be proven that you knew that minors would be drinking alcohol in your absence, you may be arrested and charged with this offense.
There are exceptions to the rules against providing alcohol to underage individuals in New Jersey. As noted above, you cannot be criminally liable if you provide alcohol to your own child or to a child over whom you have guardianship. Additionally, the offense does not amount to criminal conduct if you provided alcohol as part of a religious ceremony, such as church or mass. These exceptions are generally commonsense and do not provide for excessive alcohol use. Simply put, the law seeks to stop you and others from creating a dangerous situation through the illegal consumption of alcohol by people under the age of 21.
NJ Section 2C:33-17 Availability of alcoholic beverages to underaged, offenses
Here is the governing New Jersey statute for providing alcohol to minors criminal offenses:
1. a. Anyone who purposely or knowingly offers or serves or makes available an alcoholic beverage to a person under the legal age for consuming alcoholic beverages or entices or encourages that person to drink an alcoholic beverage is a disorderly person.
This subsection shall not apply to a parent or guardian of the person under legal age for consuming alcoholic beverages if the parent or guardian is of the legal age to consume alcoholic beverages or to a religious observance, ceremony or rite. This subsection shall also not apply to any person in his home who is of the legal age to consume alcoholic beverages who offers or serves or makes available an alcoholic beverage to a person under the legal age for consuming alcoholic beverages or entices that person to drink an alcoholic beverage in the presence of and with the permission of the parent or guardian of the person under the legal age for consuming alcoholic beverages if the parent or guardian is of the legal age to consume alcoholic beverages.
b. A person who makes real property owned, leased or managed by him available to, or leaves that property in the care of, another person with the purpose that alcoholic beverages will be made available for consumption by, or will be consumed by, persons who are under the legal age for consuming alcoholic beverages is guilty of a disorderly persons offense.
This subsection shall not apply if:
(1) the real property is licensed or required to be licensed by the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control in accordance with the provisions of R.S.33:1-1 et seq;
(2) the person making the property available, or leaving it in the care of another person, is of the legal age to consume alcoholic beverages and is the parent or guardian of the person who consumes alcoholic beverages while under the legal age for consuming alcoholic beverages; or
(3) the alcoholic beverages are consumed by a person under the legal age for consuming alcoholic beverages during a religious observance, ceremony or rite.
Penalty for Providing Alcohol to Minors in NJ
Providing alcohol to minors is classified as a disorderly persons offense, which is similar to a criminal misdemeanor. If convicted, you face jail for up to 6 months, probation, and subject yourself to civil penalties, including a fine of up to $1,000.
Depending on the facts of the case, you may face additional consequences, aside from those imposed by the criminal court. For example, if you provided an environment for minors to drink, served, or sold alcohol to an underage person and someone was injured, you can be sued civilly. In a civil suit, the injured party seeks monetary compensation for any financial losses that they suffered, and the court can order hefty financial damages that serve as punitive punishment. These repercussions may come in addition to any criminal penalties ordered in the municipal court case.
In some cases, the Division of Child Protection (DCPP, formerly known as DYFS) can be contacted based on allegations that you provided alcohol to a minor. Upon the initiation of a child protective services investigation for alleged child abuse or neglect, the Division can require you to undergo certain programs or counseling to ensure the safety of your child. This is yet another reason to prove that the charges against you are baseless and cannot reasonably be established in a court of law.
Cranford Providing Alcohol to Minors Attorney for Your Defense
If you or someone you love has been accused of providing alcohol to minors in Union County, New Jersey, it is imperative that you contact a dedicated criminal attorney immediately. Our legal team is here to defend your innocence in Clark, Scotch Plains, Berkeley Heights, New Providence, Plainfield, Kenilworth, and surrounding communities. We are available now to provide you with more information in a free consultation. We encourage you to call (908) 838-0150 or start a chat now to begin your conversation.
Our phones are answered 24 hours a day. We are available weekdays during business hours. We also meet with clients on evenings and weekends by request. We have four office locations conveniently located in Mount Laurel, Point Pleasant, Princeton and Middletown. All major credit cards are accepted