Just about everyone knows the legal drinking age in New Jersey is 21, and everyone under that age may be subject to fines, penalties or even jail time if they are caught drinking. However, it is fairly well-known that many young adults try alcohol for the first time as teenagers, in high school or in their freshman or sophomore years at college before they have turned 21. It’s difficult, but not impossible, for underage drinkers to get their hands on beer and liquor, and it often requires the help of someone who is of legal age.
An underage drinker who gets caught by police could be subject to many types of repercussions, most of which will have a lasting impact on his or her future. Under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15, underage possession of alcohol is a “disorderly persons” offense and a conviction can lead to a term of probation or sometimes jail. These charges pertain to anyone caught with alcohol under the age of 21, even if the person is not drunk or has not even had a drink. Simply being in possession of a bottle of beer can be enough to land a person in court.
According to the law, any person under 21 who consumes or purchases an alcoholic beverage will be fined at least $500. If a court finds that an underage person possessed alcohol while in any motor vehicle, the court must impose a six-month loss of driving privileges regardless of whether the person was not under the influence of alcohol. In some cases, if the offense is serious enough and the person is at a high level of intoxication when he or she is arrested, the court may order rehabilitation either in custody or as an alternative to time in a juvenile detention center.
Providing Alcohol to Minors
If you are 21 or older, you’re allowed to drink (in moderation) without suffering criminal penalties or repercussions. However, it is still illegal for you to provide alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 with some minor exceptions, such as at certain religious observances. It may seem like an obvious law for most parents not to make alcohol available to teenagers at parties or events, but for young adults who have just turned 21 and whose friends may be on the verge of turning 21 themselves, the distinction between legal and underage may not be so obvious.
College parties are a great example of furnishing alcohol to minors without meaning to do so. Most college fraternity parties are open to the general public, but some may have a screening system to prevent underage drinking. This might mean that a bouncer checks IDs at the door and marks anyone under 21 with an X on the back of the hand. However, this does not necessarily prevent that person from drinking, and unlike the rules of a typical bar where underage patrons are not allowed on certain nights (or at all), a frat party has the potential for anyone to grab a cup and a beer. If the police are called, the adults who threw the party could be held responsible for the minors who are caught drinking, despite their efforts to curb any illegal activity.
These types of convictions can linger on a person’s record for many years, making it hard to find a job or pass a background check. If you are underage and have been caught drinking, or if you are an adult who has been charged with furnishing alcohol to minors, contact a Hackensack juvenile attorney at The Gorman Law Firm today.
Published in Categories: Juvenile Defense