One rite of passage for many teenagers is to have parties while their parents aren't at home. Underage drinking is an all-too-frequent event at these events. While it looks like a blast on television and film with everyone having a great time, underage drinking can turn teenage parties dangerous in an instant.
Underage drinking can create serious legal and safety issues for party attendees, and it can also create legal issues for the parents or the homeowners of the place where the party took place.
A Gas Leak Exposed an Underage Drinking Party
A gas leak in Wyckoff, New Jersey, triggered an alarm at a home on Howard Street. When firefighters arrived, they found what looked like a large group of underage kids consuming alcoholic beverages in the garage. There were about 40 kids in total, and there didn't seem to be an adult present.
When police contacted the 51-year-old owner of the home, she replied that she didn't know that there had been anything untoward going on, and she didn't know why the alarm had been activated.
The authorities issued summonses for the homeowner to appear in Municipal Court. According to the police lieutenant involved with the case, the summonses charge the homeowner with “purposely or knowingly serving alcohol to underage persons” and “making her property available for the purpose of alcoholic beverage consumption by underage persons.”
Penalties Can Be Stiff Depending on the Underage Drinker's Age
According to New Jersey Statute 2C: 33-15, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to buy, drink, or possess an alcoholic beverage in a public place, school, or motor vehicle. People who are over 18 but under the age of 21 who break these laws will face charges as an adult, while those under 18 will be charged with a juvenile offense.
While the state of New Jersey has not criminalized underage drinking on private property, many municipalities within the state have local laws prohibiting underage drinking on private property. These tend to be civil offenses and not crimes, but the worst thing anyone could do is underestimate the damage being found guilty could do to someone's life.
Penalties Depend on Several Circumstances
The penalties (or lack thereof) for underage drinking depend on the circumstance.
- If an underage person is convicted of drinking in New Jersey, it's considered a disorderly persons offense, and they could get a fine of not less than $500. More strict penalties could be applied, including up to six months in jail and up to one thousand dollars in fines.
- In order to protect and encourage young people to contact the authorities in case of a dangerous incident regarding alcohol, a person can avoid prosecution for underage drinking in cases of a medical emergency. If the underage person calls 911 to get medical help for another person relating to alcohol consumption, they will be immune from prosecution as long as they were the first to contact emergency services, they provide their name to emergency services, and they remain on the scene with the person who needs the help. Two other people in the same circumstances can be added to this provision as long as they remain on the scene and also cooperate.
Reach Out for Legal Help With Underage Drinking Issues
Dealing with underage drinking issues can have lasting legal consequences for both the minors and the adults involved. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm has worked with families for years to help them address these issues so they can move forward with their lives.
Reach out for help at 888-535-3686 today to schedule an evaluation of your case. Your life is worth it.