The legal drinking age in the state of New Jersey is 21. But it isn't difficult for people under 21 to get their hands on alcoholic beverages. In efforts to deter underage drinking, law enforcement and lawmakers have discovered what college students and rebellious high schoolers have known all along: alcohol is easily accessible. Youngsters have found ways to get alcohol without having to step in a bar or a convenience store to pay for it. Also, in the current era of advanced technology, fake identification has become almost identical to state-authorized IDs. Whether underage drinkers obtain alcohol at home, from their friends, or at a party, getting behind the wheel with it still in their system will lead to harsh penalties if they are caught.
If your child has been charged with an underage DWI, your first and immediate step should be to seek the services of a skilled criminal defense attorney. A skilled legal professional is equipped with the tools to provide a solid defense for you that could either get your charges significantly reduced, or get them dropped altogether. Your next step would be to gain an understanding of how the state prosecutes DWIs involving defendants under 21. In this article, we'll provide a comprehensive guide including everything you need to know about underage DWIs.
Underage DWI Law in New Jersey
According to New Jersey statutes, it is against the law for people under the age of 21 to drive while impaired by any quantity of drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two. The state has zero tolerance for underage drinking and limits the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit to 0.01% - a stark difference from the regular limit (for people over 21) is 0.08%. For many people, this is as little as one drink. In essence, any amount of alcohol in the system of an underage person can land them a criminal charge.
As aforementioned, the legal drinking age in New Jersey is 21. However, there are exceptions to this rule under the following circumstances:
- The underage person is on a private, non-alcohol selling premises and has the consent of a legal guardian
- The underage person consumed alcohol for medical purposes
- The underage person consumed alcohol for religious purposes
- The underage person consumed alcohol for educational purposes
Penalties for a DWI Under 21
The penalties for a DWI under 21 depend on the nature of the crime and a person's prior convictions. But generally, of a chemical test determines that a person under the age of 21 has a BAC of 0.01%, they can expect to face the following penalties:
- The loss of their license for 30 to 90 days
- A costly fine of $500
- 15 to 30 days of community service
- Participation in an alcohol and traffic safety education program
It's important to note that when an underage driver has a BAC level over the regular limit of 0.08%, other serious penalties will be attached to your offense. If an underage driver's BAC is over the limit of 0.15%, the driver may have to install an ignition interlock device on his or her vehicle until driving privileges are reinstated.
Driving while impaired is a bad idea overall. But when this crime involves an underage driver, there are a number of repercussions defendants experience outside of the obvious. Here are certain aspects of your life that will be affected after an underage DWI.
Your plan to go to college becomes much more complicated with an underage DWI on your criminal record. When applying for colleges, there will be verbiage on the application that gives students an opportunity to disclose information about criminal convictions and arrests. Some schools refuse to admit students with a criminal record, while others may put you on a waitlist. If you're planning on getting in a specialized program, like nursing or pre-law, your chances of getting in with underage DWI are pretty low.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
The requirements for receiving private and public financial aid and scholarships vary from organization to organization. But some lenders make it a point to disqualify people with underage DWIs on their records.
If you're already in college and living in a dorm on campus, a DWI can get you kicked out of student housing. Students are required to abide by a strict set of rules (solidified by a contract) to stay in campus housing. A DWI is a violation of these rules at many schools, leaving you no choice but to find residency elsewhere.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
If you've been charged with a DWI under 21, there's a lot at stake. But if it's proven that your arrest was unlawful or an officer's actions strayed from protocol, there's a good chance your charges could be dismissed.
With so much on the line, the best thing you can do is contact a seasoned criminal defense attorney. The sooner a legal representative can get on your case, the more time they have to build a solid defense. In New Jersey, a DWI is an offense that requires skilled and aggressive representation.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and credentials to defend and counsel people who've acquired DWI charges. He will explain your pending charges, build a solid defense and work towards getting your charges reduced or dropped. For more information about Mr. Lento's representation, contact the Lento Law Firm either online or by phone at 888-535-3686.