Have you or someone you know been charged with underage drinking or possession of alcohol in New Jersey? You are not alone. Approximately 7.1 million children, teens, and young adults between the ages of 12 and 20 reported consuming alcohol in 2018, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Despite the prevalence of alcohol consumption among underage people, drinking or possessing alcohol under the legal age of 21 is not any less of a crime. In New Jersey, underage possession or consumption of alcohol is a disorderly persons offense for which individuals face jail time, substantial fines, loss of driver’s license, and a criminal record. It is important to understand what charges for N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15 mean and discuss the unique impact of these accusations on juveniles and legal adults charged with underage drinking.
If you or your child has been charged with an underage alcohol offense, our highly equipped criminal defense lawyers can help. We frequently represent clients charged with underage drinking, underage DWI, and providing alcohol to minors in Cranford, Roselle, Linden, Elizabeth, Westfield, Berkeley Heights, Union Township, Livingston, and throughout Union County. Our attorneys are here to provide answers to your unique questions in a free consultation. Simply call (908) 838-0150 or contact us online today.
Possession of Alcohol Underage in Union County NJ
Every law in New Jersey is defined by statute. In essence, the criminal statutes outline what a person can and cannot do by law. Specifically, the statute that defines underage drinking is entitled “Possession, consumption of alcoholic beverages by persons under legal age; penalty.” This law, found in New Jersey Statute Section 2C:33-15, makes it illegal for any person under the age of 21 to:
Purchase any alcoholic beverage, possess without legal authority, or knowingly drink or consume alcohol in any public place, school, place where the public has gathered, or motor vehicle.
It is fairly common for kids to gather at a party or park and get arrested for underage drinking or alcohol possession in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15. If the person caught drinking is under the age of 18, they will likely receive a notice to attend the Family Court in the county in which they reside. On the other hand, those 18 or older who have been charged with underage alcohol offenses in Union County, New Jersey, will be required to appear in the local municipal court where the charges were issued. In either scenario, a defense attorney should be retained, as those facing underage drinking charges can be punished severely.
Punishments for Underage Drinking in NJ
If convicted of underage possession or consumption of alcohol, the law also allows the judge to sentence you in a relatively harsh manner. Underage drinking is considered a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey, which allows for a sentence of up to 6 months in the county jail for adults and a maximum fine of $1,000. For juveniles, the court may order a fine of $500-$1,000 and place the child in a detention facility for a maximum of 6 months. Additionally, the court is required to suspend the driver’s license for 6 months if the offense took place in a motor vehicle. Even if a teenager does not have a license, the court will deter them from obtaining a driver’s license for 6 months after reaching the age of 17.
Of course, there are ways that the case can be resolved to something less impactful than a disorderly persons offense. The police and court understand that all people, especially the young, make mistakes and should be given the opportunity to correct those mistakes without permanent damage to their lives. Sometimes, the case can be resolved by way of pleading to a town ordinance instead of a disorderly persons offense. There are multiple avenues that should be explored before making any potentially life-altering decisions, which you can discuss with your lawyer.
Consequences for juveniles charged with underage alcohol possession in Union County New Jersey
Regardless of whether a juvenile took a quick swig of a beer or consumed copious amounts of vodka, they face significant punishment in New Jersey. Nevertheless, juvenile court is different from adult court and even municipal court. In this legal venue, the judge is focused on rehabilitation. Rehabilitation can include such remedies as drug or alcohol treatment, community service, probation, education concerning alcohol abuse, or a deferred disposition to name a few possibly available options. For example, if this is the child’s first offense, the court may order a referral to the intake program where the case can be resolved outside of court. In other cases, you may receive a deferred disposition, which means that the case will be dismissed after you complete all conditions.
If you are convicted of an underage drinking offense, it will be on your adult criminal record or juvenile record, depending on your age. The law in New Jersey allows for the charges to be expunged within 5 years generally. Notably, for cases in juvenile court, you can expunge a disorderly persons offense from your record in as little as three years after the sentence is completed.
Consult Underage Alcohol Defense Attorneys in Cranford NJ
If you or your child has been charged with a violation of 2C:33-15, our criminal attorneys prioritize protecting your rights and your future. The Union County defense lawyers at our firm have represented numerous minors and young adults that were in the same position as you or your loved one. We seek to educate you on the law and your options, minimize the overall impacts of the charges, and work tirelessly for the best result. For more information and to discuss your underage drinking case free of charge, contact us now at (908) 838-0150.
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