When you first got your license as a teenager, the ability to drive probably opened up a whole new world to you. You could get yourself to and from school without the bus, you could go to football games and school events by yourself, you could take a date out on the town, drive to work, run over to a friend’s house, or pick up pizza or McDonald’s whenever you were hungry. Driving is a privilege for many teens and one that they work hard to earn, as New Jersey’s driving tests ensure that young adults are ready to hit the road.
But with this great privilege comes a serious responsibility to stay sober behind the wheel. Although the legal drinking age in New Jersey and across the country is 21, far too many young teens and college-aged kids get their hands on their first beer or mixed drink much earlier. Combine early drinking with the ability to drive, and the decision-making skills of a 17 or 18-year-old, and you have the potential for accidents, and serious consequences.
If you are under the age of 21, getting behind the wheel with any alcohol in your system, even if you are not drunk is never a good idea. This is because New Jersey penalizes drivers who are under the legal drinking age if they have been drinking even if the alcohol did not impair the driver’s ability to drives.
The legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) when you’re driving is 0.08%, as long as you’re over the age of 21. However, New Jersey is a zero-tolerance state for underage drinking, which means that if the police pull you over, and you have a blood alcohol content of .01% or higher, and you’re under 21, you can be charged with an offense that is commonly referred to as a “Baby DWI” even though it is not really a “DWI” at all because the offense does not require impairment or intoxication. Of course, a driver with a BAC of 0.08% or higher will be charged with DWI.
License and Insurance Restrictions
If you’re caught driving with alcohol in your system when you’re underage and your BAC is between 0.01% and 0.07%, your license could be suspended for 30 to 90 days, you could be sentenced to 15 to 30 days of community service, and you could be ordered to participate in an alcohol education program—even if this is your first offense. Of course, if your BAC is a .08% or greater, you will face a license suspension of at least six months and, depending on your particular circumstances, as much as a year or two years, in the case of a school zone offense. In addition to the suspension of your driving privileges, a DWI/DUI charge when you’re underage could cost you your car insurance coverage, sometimes permanently. While some insurance providers raise premium costs in the case of a DUI, some cancel these policies altogether, or refuse to renew them. When you are able to drive again, you may have to submit an SR-22 certificate to the DMV to prove that you can obtain insurance.
Get a Legal Consultation
If you are under the age of 21, and you have been charged with drinking and driving, call an experienced Hackensack juvenile defense attorney right away. The consequences—license suspension, jail time, fines, and loss of insurance—could prevent you from getting behind the wheel for a long, long time, sometimes even after you’ve turned 21 and can legally drink. Teenage mistakes can have serious consequences, so it’s best to understand the law and how to build your defense.
Published in Categories: DUI / DWI, Juvenile Defense