Underage Alcohol Possession and DUI Lawyers Passaic County NJ

Criminal Law Attorneys Fight For the Rights of Clients in Woodland Park, Wayne, Clifton and across Passaic County

The Seriousness of Alcohol Possession by Minors and DWI in New JerseyNew Jersey State Law (§ 2C:33-15) makes it illegal for a person under the age of 21 to purchase, consume or possess any alcoholic beverage in a school, place of public assembly, public place, public conveyance or motor vehicle. If caught in possession of alcohol in any of the aforementioned locations, the individual may be charged with a misdemeanor disorderly person’s offense.  However, the law does allow for very specific common-sense exceptions.

These include:

  • For medical purposes, provided that a licensed physician, dentist, nurse, hospital, medical institution, or pharmacist administers the alcohol.
  • A minor’s use of alcohol for an established and accepted religious purpose provided that the minor is accompanied by a parent, legal guardian over the age of 21, or spouse.
  • During lawful employment by a licensed manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer (i.e. the minor is employed by an alcohol manufacturer or an establishment that legally sells alcohol).

Individuals under age 18 who are found to be in violation of this law will be charged as juveniles and face juvenile delinquency proceedings. However, individuals over age 18 but under age 21 will face charges as an adult.

What are the Penalties For Underage Alcohol Possession?

For persons over age 18 but under age 21, possession of alcohol may result in fines ranging between $500 and $1,000 as well as potential jail time of up to 180 days. Furthermore, the judge can also order that the underage person attend up to six months of alcohol awareness programs, a treatment program or some other kind of intervention.

For persons over age 18 but under age 21 who are caught with alcohol in a motor vehicle, even when not driving, the individual’s driver’s license will be suspended for six months with the suspension commencing immediately upon conviction.

In instances where the underage person is under 18 years of age, a delinquency hearing will be held. If the individual is found to be delinquent the court may place the person into a residential or non-residential alcohol treatment center. For arrests that occur while a person of this age was in a motor vehicle their driver’s license will be lost for six months or if the individual does not yet have a valid New Jersey driver’s license, the suspension will postpone their eligibility to obtain one.

What are the Penalties For Driving With Alcohol In Your System Under The Age 21?

New Jersey is a zero-tolerance state when it comes to alcohol consumption by minors. This is even truer when it comes to minors operating motor vehicles while under the influence. Penalties for any DWI are harsh and can include the suspension of the driver’s license, hefty fines, potential jail, required attendance at alcohol educational programs, insurance surcharges and the possible placement of an ignition interlock system placed on the person’s vehicle. The legal limit for an adult is a BAC of 0.08%.

Penalties for Registering a BAC of 0.01% to 0.079%

However, the zero-tolerance standard for individuals under the age of 21 means if there is any alcohol in their system they are violating the law and can be charged, not with a DWI but with having alcohol in their system while being underage. Drivers under 21 registering a BAC of 0.01% to 0.079%, will have their driver’s license suspended for 30 to 90 days, as well as have 15 to 30 days of mandatory community service, required attendance at the Intoxicated Drivers Resource Center (IDRC), in addition to hefty fines and other surcharges.  It is important to note that in almost every instance where the BAC of a minor is above 0.04% that person will also be charged with Driving While Intoxicated. The reason for this is that young drinkers should by definition be inexperienced and may show the effects of alcohol more readily than an older person who may have had more experience with alcohol.

Penalties for Registering a BAC of 0.08% to 0.099%

If a minor, under 21, is charged with DWI either because of their conduct in appearing to be under the influence or having a BAC of 0.08% to 0.099%, they will face the same penalties as an adult 21 or older. They will be subject to up to 30 days in jail, a driver’s license suspension for 3 months, IDRC participation for 12 to 48 hours, fines between $250 and $400, plus surcharges of $3,000. If the BAC is 0.10% or higher or the charge is related to drugs rather than alcohol, the sentencing will be in the “higher tier”  DWI and the license suspension will last from 7 months to one year. Convictions in such cases could result in up to 30 days in jail, a license suspension of 7 to 12 months, 12 to 48 hours at the IDRC, fines between $300 and $500 and surcharges of $3,000.

Penalties for Registering a BAC above 0.15%

The aforementioned penalties are for an underage drinker’s first DWI conviction. When the BAC is above 0.15% the penalties are more severe and if he or she is a second or subsequent DWI offender the penalties are increased according to the second offense and third offense DWI schedules as outlined under New Jersey law.

Contact a Woodland Park Underage Drinking and DUI Defense Attorney Today

Given the stiff penalties associated with alcohol possession and DWI for minors, it is essential that any minor charged with these offenses have a skilled and experienced attorney as their advocate as soon as possible. Once the defense is prepared, there´s the possibility to negotiate reduced charges, which decreases the amount of fines and penalties you may face.

Contact an experienced Passaic County underage drinking defense attorney for an initial consultation that can make the difference in the final outcome. The lawyers at The Montanari Law Group will guide you and your child to explore the legal options to get the best outcome based on your particular circumstances. Contact us by calling (973) 233-4396 or visiting our website.


To speak with one of our highly knowledgeable attorneys, contact us today at (973)-233-4396 or toll-free at (888)-877-7985. You can also complete the form below to begin your conversation. We are a personalized, boutique-style law firm that offers free initial consultations and flexible appointment options.