New Jersey College Student Defense: Alcohol Possession, Consumption, and Distribution Crimes

Your college years can be some of the best of your entire life. You're discovering your independence, figuring out who you want to be, and making friends that will last a lifetime. The path to adulthood can sometimes be a rocky one, though. Being on your own for the first time can be overwhelming for some, and college students often make more than their fair share of mistakes. What you don't want is for one of those mistakes to cost you your academic, professional, or personal future.

New Jersey colleges and universities have little tolerance for alcohol possession and consumption on campus. It doesn't really matter whether you're a minor or an adult; if you're caught violating campus policies regarding alcohol, you could face disciplinary sanctions up to and including suspension and expulsion.

Underage drinking and disorderly conduct aren't just violations of school policy, though. They're against the law, as are many other alcohol-related crimes, such as drunk driving or furnishing alcohol to minors. Violate local or state laws, and you'll be facing more than expulsion: you could be facing steep fines and even jail time.

What do you do if you're facing school disciplinary charges or criminal charges for an alcohol-related crime in New Jersey? You find an attorney. Not just any lawyer will do, though. You need someone who has experience handling prosecutors and judges, but who also understands the unique demands of campus judicial systems. In New Jersey, only Joseph D. Lento can offer representation in both these areas, and only Joseph D. Lento has a proven record of helping student clients get the justice they deserve no matter what kind of charges they're facing.

Crime Detection on New Jersey Campuses

Anyone in New Jersey can be convicted of underage drinking or drinking and driving. That includes the corporate executive in Trenton and the homecoming prom queen in Jersey City. As a university student, though, you face special scrutiny. No place in America is monitored the way colleges and universities are. You're surrounded, not just by other students but by faculty, staff, and administrators who pay close attention to your every move and who are zealous—sometimes overly zealous—about keeping the community safe. It's virtually impossible to violate your school's alcohol policy and get away with it. And, if you're caught, you can be sure of facing stiff penalties.

Once you're caught, you can also expect your school to report your misconduct to law enforcement. Most schools in New Jersey maintain professional police departments. Montclair State University, for example, brags about the fact that its police department is “an autonomous, fully certified and operational law enforcement agency.” Officers are trained at police academies, and they are fully empowered to conduct investigations, make arrests, and refer cases to local prosecutors. And you're not off the hook if you happen to attend a smaller school without its own dedicated police force. Colleges and universities routinely turn serious alcohol violations over to town or city police departments.

Maybe you're facing an accusation from your school; maybe you're facing a criminal charge. There's every possibility, though, that you're facing both. As a New Jersey student, you need someone on your side who knows how to handle whatever comes up, someone with courtroom experience who also knows how to handle faculty and administrators. You need someone like Joseph D. Lento.

New Jersey Alcohol and Underage Drinking Crimes

Students sometimes have the mistaken impression that their status as students protects them from criminal prosecution. Nothing could be further from the truth. College and university students wind up arrested and standing before judges just like anyone else in New Jersey. Let's start, then, by considering just what kind of charges you could face for alcohol-related activities in New Jersey.

Underage Drinking Crimes on New Jersey College Campuses

One of the most common alcohol offenses in New Jersey, particularly at New Jersey colleges and universities, is underage drinking. New Jersey statute 2C:33-15 prohibits possession, consumption, and purchase of alcohol by anyone under the age of 21. Sentences for violating this statute include a fine of between $500 and $1000 and up to 180 days in jail. That may not sound like a lot. The consequences for an underage drinking conviction, though, are far more serious than financial penalties or even time in a jail cell. Convictions go on your record, and that means they're searchable and show up on any background checks. A criminal conviction of any kind can keep you from renting an apartment, bar you from certain volunteer work, and hinder your ability to get a job.

Other Drinking-Related Crimes on New Jersey College Campuses

Drinking often leads to other crimes, whether you are a minor or an adult. Public intoxication is not illegal in New Jersey, but disorderly conduct—a possibility for anyone drinking in public—certainly is. New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice 2C:33-2 makes it an offense to

  • Cause public “inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm” or to “recklessly” create risk of inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm
  • Engage in fighting or threatening, or violent or “tumultuous” behavior
  • Create any sort of hazardous conditions that have no legitimate purpose

False Identification Crimes on New Jersey College Campuses

Another alcohol-related crime that's especially common with college students is “Displaying a False Document” or false identification. Obviously, you can't purchase alcohol in New Jersey unless you can present credentials showing you are over 21. Some college students think a fake ID is the solution to this problem. Under New Jersey statute 2C:21-2.1(c), however, a fake ID can get you charged with a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $15,000. You don't even have actually to use the ID: simply possessing it is enough to get you arrested.

Defending New Jersey Student Drinking Crime Charges

An arrest or an indictment for underage drinking, drinking and driving, or providing a fake ID doesn't necessarily mean you'll be convicted, fined, or jailed. Just like any other U.S. citizen, you're entitled to a number of important due process rights. Among these, you have the right to an attorney, someone who can accompany you to police interviews, help you prepare your case, and represent you should you go to trial. Here's just a sampling of what attorney Joseph D. Lento can do for you.

  • Make sure your arraignment goes smoothly and that you are released without strict bond terms so you can continue as a student and assist in preparing your defense
  • Identify gaps in the prosecution's case, including things like misidentification, the failure to document observations accurately, and the failure to properly preserve evidence
  • Use your discovery rights to uncover exonerating and mitigating evidence from the police and prosecution, and present that evidence in pretrial conferences to advocate for charge dismissal
  • File pretrial motions asserting police violation of your constitutional rights and privileges or suppression of evidence in an attempt to get the charges dismissed.
  • Force the prosecution to meet the highest burden in proving the elements of your crime and securing a conviction.
  • Represent you at trial, including making an opening statement, cross-examining prosecution witnesses, examining defense witnesses, and presenting a closing argument
  • File post-trial motions and appeals regarding any adverse findings and results

New Jersey student discipline and criminal defense attorney Joseph D. Lento has represented hundreds of students in New Jersey and nationwide, helping them deal with alcohol-related and other kinds of criminal charges. You can trust Joseph D. Lento to get the best possible outcome for your case.

New Jersey College and University Alcohol Policies

All New Jersey colleges and universities follow state and local laws, including those related to alcohol possession and consumption. Montclair University's Student Code of Conduct notes, for instance, “Students are not permitted to violate any local, state or federal law on campus, in other municipalities, or in University-related events.”

Even when student codes of conduct don't include such language, their policies often echo the law. Rutgers University, for example, prohibits all of the following:

  • Alcohol possession or consumption by anyone under the age of 21
  • Alcohol possession in any campus area where it is not permitted
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Providing or facilitating alcohol consumption by anyone under the age of 21

It's worth noting that not all of these rules rise to the level of criminal offenses. If you're over 21 and consuming alcohol in a part of the Rutgers campus where it's forbidden, you haven't broken any laws. You are subject, however, to disciplinary action and penalties, including suspension and expulsion.

Other New Jersey schools have similar policies. Some schools, such as Seton Hall, go further and ban alcohol possession and consumption entirely on campus. Again, the fact that you may be of age and legally entitled to drink has no bearing on the school's ability to charge and punish you for violations of school policy.

New Jersey Campus Drinking Disciplinary Procedures

If you've been charged with underage drinking or any other crime in New Jersey, your school may wait on the outcome of any criminal proceedings before conducting its own investigation and adjudication. However, you can be certain it will ultimately initiate its own disciplinary proceedings against you if you're found guilty of a crime. In fact, you may be subject to investigation even if the criminal charges against you are dropped, or you are found innocent in a court of law. Again, you don't have to be facing a criminal investigation at all to be charged by your school with violating policy, and the legal standard for conviction at schools is typically “preponderance of evidence,” a much lower standard than the one applied in criminal courts, “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Your school can find you responsible for an offense if it simply believes it is “more likely than not” that you committed it.

All New Jersey schools have published rules, usually in their student conduct codes, detailing their process for handling such violations. These processes vary from university to university, but typically, they involve an investigation, some sort of adjudication—usually a hearing, and an appeals process.

The Rutgers student disciplinary process offers a good example.

  • Complaints of misconduct are directed to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards (OSCCS).
  • The OSCCS then assigns a Conduct Officer to investigate the allegation. As part of the investigation, Conduct Officers meet with both sides in the case, interview witnesses, and collect any physical evidence.
  • If the Officer finds no substantive evidence to back up the initial accusation, the charges are dismissed. If, however, the Officer believes you may have committed an offense, they refer the matter to the University Hearing Board.
  • As part of the hearing, you have the opportunity to argue your side of the case, present evidence, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf.
  • Finally, should you be found responsible, you also have the right to appeal the hearing outcome to the Campus Appeals Committee. Grounds for appeal are extremely limited, though, and include
    • Unsupported conclusions
    • Procedural errors
    • Discovery of new evidence
    • Sanctions disproportionate to the nature of the offense.

Facing a Hearing Board rather than a judge and jury doesn't mean you can take the charges against you lightly. It is still crucial to have an attorney at your side. Just as in criminal cases, the right attorney can help you create a defense strategy, coach you in how to answer questions, and in most cases, accompany you to interviews and judicial proceedings. Campus proceedings aren't like criminal proceedings, though, and you need the right lawyer, someone who is experienced at dealing with faculty and administrators; someone who knows how to navigate campus judicial systems; someone who understands exactly what's at stake for you as a student.

Premier New Jersey Student Defense Attorney, Joseph D. Lento

Joseph D. Lento is a skilled New Jersey criminal defense attorney who specializes in representing student clients. Joseph D. Lento has vast courtroom experience; he's just as comfortable, though, standing in front of a university appeals board. Perhaps the most important thing to know about Joseph D. Lento is that he understands the challenges you face as a student. Whether you're facing criminal or disciplinary charges or both, he's committed to getting you a fair hearing and the best possible resolution to your case. He's just as committed to ensuring your education doesn't suffer while you go through the process of defending yourself. Joseph D. Lento takes care of the details so you can concentrate on going to class and studying.

If you're a student who's in trouble—no matter what the charges—invest in an attorney who knows how to handle whatever may come up. Protect your education and your future. Contact attorney Lento now at 888.535.3686 or go online for help.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today

When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

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