Juveniles across America continue to drink alcohol or abuse substances even though it is illegal to do so. What happens when they drink or use and then get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle? If your child is pulled over by a police officer and charged with driving while under the influence, their life and reputation can seemingly shrink in an instant. Juveniles are more reformable than adults, so many judges make it their mission to punish them to curb the destructive behavior. Suddenly one wrong decision can change the course of their life forever.
But what if it didn't have to? What if you had a skilled criminal attorney on your side? At Lento Law Firm, Attorney Joseph D. Lento makes it his mission to come to the aid of juveniles and their families across New Jersey to help them navigate their complex terrain. You and your child do not have to suffer alone. He can help. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation.
What is a DWI?
Drunk Driving, or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), is hazardous to the individual driver and everyone else on the road. Substances like alcohol lower not just your inhibitions but your reflexes as well. It is much harder to react in real-time; your responses slow. It is much more difficult for an inebriated driver to change lanes in time, avoid a collision, or even see the lines on the road than it is for a non-intoxicated person. This interference is even more apparent in underage drivers. Research suggests that juveniles are less sensitive to alcohol than adults. They end up drinking more to achieve a “buzz” and don't realize how intoxicated they are until it's too late.
In New Jersey, a person is charged with a DWI if they are operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of any substance that would alter their abilities to drive safely. These substances include alcohol, but also narcotics, hallucinogens, or any habit-producing drug. Police officers can also charge you with a DWI if you allow someone else to drive while intoxicated.
It's important to remember that an underage person can be charged with a DWI but not necessarily found guilty of it. For an adult to be found guilty and convicted of a DWI in New Jersey, they must be operating a vehicle and have a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. But for anyone under 21 years old, they can be found guilty for a DWI if their blood alcohol content is just 0.01 percent or higher. A great lawyer can help abate this conviction.
The Penalties for a DWI
On the surface, a juvenile DWI charge in New Jersey seems straight forward. If you are driving under the influence of any mind-altering substances, you will:
- Lose your driving privileges for 30 – 90 days
- Do 15 – 30 of community service
- Be referred to an alcohol and traffic safety education program or enrolled in an Intoxicated Drivers Resource Center
But the biggest thing to note is that DWIs, whether you are of age or a juvenile, are not expungable. That means the conviction will sit on your child's record for the rest of their lives – or unless they are successful in seeking to reopen the conviction through a Post Conviction Relief case.
Additionally, your child's penalties become even more complicated if their BAC was higher than 0.08 percent. In the research above, the underage drinker needs to drink more to feel the alcohol taking effect, that means that their blood alcohol level is likely to rise above 0.08 percent. If this is the case, the juvenile will face harsher charges – such as being subject to the same penalties as an adult driver. These include:
- $250 - $400 fine
- 30-day imprisonment
- Driver's license suspension for three months to a year
- 6 hours a day, two days in a row in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
- Vehicle Insurance surcharge of $1000 for three years
- Giving up their driver's license until an ignition interlock is installed (a breathalyzer the child must breathe into before turning on the vehicle)
How a DWI Conviction Will Affect Your Child's Future
If your child is held to the same standards as an adult, their life will be altered. Adults face 1st, 2nd, and 3rd offense consequences that underage drivers would not face if their BAC were below 0.08 percent. For a second and third offense, the fines increase three-fold, as does the imprisonment, license suspension minimum, and the length of time the ignition interlock must be installed.
A DWI is a severe charge, even if it doesn't carry the same stigma as other criminal charges might. It will affect your child's future – especially if that child is interested in any occupation that requires a driver's license – including a career as a paramedic, firefighters, or police officer. Having a qualified attorney by your side from the very start can help ensure this doesn't happen.
How a Juvenile Criminal Attorney Can Help
If your child is arrested for a DWI, finding a qualified juvenile criminal attorney is the first – and the most important – step. Juvenile Criminal Attorneys have more specific knowledge on juvenile law than the standard criminal attorney or even public defender. They can hone in on the defenses that would be most relevant to your child and ensure their due process rights are protected.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. He has years of experience helping families just like yours navigate this terrain. Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm will begin by explaining the charges and consequences fully to both you and your child. Then he and his team will build a sturdy defense and work towards getting this DUI charge reduced or dropped altogether. He fights for his clients tirelessly and will work vigorously to ensure your child's future prospects are not suppressed. Your son or daughter deserves the future you both had in mind for them. One wrong decision should not make or break them—Call 888-535-3686 to schedule your consultation today. Don't suffer through this complex charge alone.