It is a well-known fact that the national legal drinking age in the United States is 21 years old. Despite this fact, however, it is a common occurrence in New Jersey for people under 21 years old to imbibe alcohol. In fact, New Jersey’s Department of Human Services reports that approximately 407,000 people under the age of 21 drink alcohol each year. When people under 21 years old consume alcohol and, thereafter, drive in the state of New Jersey, they can be hit with some pretty severe criminal and civil penalties if caught by the police. Below, we provide you with information relating to New Jersey’s DUI laws and how they are applied to those who are underage that are caught driving under the influence of alcohol.
New Jersey’s Zero Tolerance Policy
In the United States, all laws concerning underage drinking and DUI vary from state to state. Unlike some states, New Jersey is what is called a “zero tolerance policy” state. This means that, if a person under the legal drinking age of 21 is pulled over under suspicion of DUI, the person may be subject to criminal penalties if he or she takes a breathalyzer test and the test yields any indication of the presence of alcohol in the person’s system. Accordingly, if an underage person is administered a breathalyzer test and blows a 0.01 % blood alcohol content (“BAC”), then the person will be cited and prosecuted in accordance with N.J.S.A.§ 39:4-50.14, New Jersey’s underage DUI statute.
Under N.J.S.A.§ 39:4-50.14, if an underage driver shows that he or she has a BAC of 0.01%, but below 0.08%, then the driver, upon conviction, will be subject to a driver license suspension or postponement of between 30 and 90 days, will have to undergo between 15 and 30 days of community service, and will have to undergo court-approved alcohol highway safety school.
If the underage person’s BAC is higher than the legal alcohol driving limit for adults, higher than a 0.08%, then the person will be prosecuted for the DUI as an adult and under New Jersey’s regular DUI statute. Accordingly, if an underage person is found to have a BAC higher than 0.08%, upon conviction and sentencing, the person may be subject to the criminal penalties imposed on adults over 21 years old for a first-offense DUI: a period of incarceration of up to 30 days, a fine of between $250 and $500, a driver license suspension of not less than 3 months but not more than 1 year, and court-ordered alcohol highway safety school.
Other Penalties Imposed on Underage Drinkers and Drivers in New Jersey
In addition to being prosecuted for an underage DUI pursuant to N.J.S.A.§ 39:4-50.1 or being prosecuted as an adult for a first-offense DUI, underage people who drink and driver may also incur a criminal conviction for underage drinking, a disorderly persons offense pursuant to N.J.S.A.§ 2C:33-15. Under N.J.S.A.§ 2C:33-15, if an underage person is found to have possessed or consumed any alcohol, they may be convicted of this offense and be ordered to pay a $500 fine as well as be subject to a driver license suspension of 6 months.
Furthermore, as with adults, incurring a DUI conviction or an underage drinking conviction may cause car insurance companies to cancel the underage person’s policy, refuse to renew the underage person’s policy after it’s expiration, or cause the underage person’s insurance premiums to increase by a $100 or more. Accordingly, not only will the underage person have to suffer the criminal penalties imposed on him or her by way of fines, incarceration, or community service, and civil penalties imposed on him or her by way of a driver license suspension, but he or she will also have to deal with being labeled a high risk driver by car insurance carriers for years to come if convicted of a DUI in New Jersey.
Contact an Experienced Moorestown DUI Defense Attorney About Your Drunk Driving Charges in New Jersey
Have you been charged with a DWI or DUI offense in New Jersey? A drunk driving conviction could leave you with a permanent record, and it could result in your driver’s license being suspended for a very long time. That is why it is imperative that you speak with a qualified DUI defense lawyer about your case. The lawyers at The Law Offices of Stephen R. Piper represent clients charged with drunk driving, breath test refusal, and related offenses in Moorestown, Burlington City, Camden, Cherry Hill, and throughout New Jersey. Call (856) 351-5335 or fill out our confidential online contact form to schedule a consultation about your case. We have an office located at 212 West Route 38, Suite 440, Moorestown, NJ 08057.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.