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Underage Drinking & College Students

New Jersey Underage Drinking Lawyer

In New Jersey, the legal drinking age is 21. Therefore, if you are under 21, it is illegal for you to consume any amount of alcohol. This is true regardless of where you are, who you are with, and whether or not you put yourself or someone else in danger — with only a few very limited exceptions.

Of course, as a college student, it can be hard not to be around alcohol. But, if you’ve been charged with an alcohol-related offense, being in college is not a defense, and you will need to hire an experienced New Jersey underage drinking attorney to help you avoid unnecessary consequences.

What Are New Jersey’s Underage Drinking Laws?

New Jersey has three primary laws that impose penalties for underage drinking. These are the state’s laws that prohibit: (i) misrepresenting your age to obtain (or try to obtain) alcohol, (ii) possessing or consuming alcohol when you’re under 21, and (iii) driving under the influence (DUI) when you’re under 21.

Misrepresenting Your Age to Obtain (or Try to Obtain) Alcohol

Whether you use a fake ID or simply walk into a bar or liquor store and try to buy alcohol, you can be charged with a crime under Section 33:1-81 of the New Jersey Statutes.  This law also makes it illegal to ask someone else to buy alcohol for you. Specifically, you can be charged with a disorderly person offense under Section 33:1-81 if you:

  •     Enter a bar or store that sells alcohol for the purpose of purchasing or consuming alcohol (even if you do not actually misrepresent your age or purchase or consume alcohol)
  •     Purchase, attempt to buy or consume alcohol in a bar or restaurant
  •     Attempt to have another person purchase alcohol for you (even if that person does not buy you alcohol)
  •     Misrepresent or misstate your age or a friend’s age in an attempt to purchase alcohol (even if you do not purchase any alcohol)

Possessing or Consuming Alcohol Under 21

Regardless of how you obtain it, it is illegal to possess or consume alcohol in New Jersey if you are under 21. Section 2C:33-15 of the New Jersey Statutes states:

“Any person under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages who knowingly possesses without legal authority or who knowingly consumes any alcoholic beverage in any school, public conveyance, public place, or place of public assembly, or motor vehicle, is guilty of a disorderly person offense . . .”

This means that you cannot drink at a bar, in your dorm room, at a fraternity or sorority house, or anywhere else on campus. It also means that you cannot drink in public or at an off-campus party. You cannot have alcohol in your fridge, car, on your person, or anywhere else if you are under 21.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Under 21 (New Jersey’s “Zero Tolerance” Law)

New Jersey has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country that apply whether you are over or under 21. It is also a “zero tolerance” state, which means that any amount of alcohol in your blood is enough to justify a DUI arrest if you are underage.

Under Section 39:4-50.14 of the New Jersey Statutes, if you are arrested for an underage DUI while attending college in New Jersey, you will lose your license for at least 30 days and be required to perform at least 15 days of community service. These are in addition to the standard penalties for a DUI under New Jersey law.

What are the Penalties for Alcohol Crimes If You're Under 21?

The penalties for underage drinking in New Jersey depend on the specific crime with which you are charged and the specific circumstances surrounding your arrest. However, in general terms, the potential penalties for underage alcohol-related offenses in New Jersey are as follows:

  •     Misrepresenting Your Age to Obtain (or Try to Obtain) Alcohol – Violating Section 33:1-81 of the New Jersey Statutes is a disorderly persons offense. It is subject to a minimum fine of $500 (but it can be as high as $1,000) and carries a mandatory six-month driver’s license suspension. The judge can also require your parent or guardian to attend your hearing.
  •     Possessing or Consuming Alcohol Under 21 – Violating Section 2C:33-15 of the New Jersey Statutes is also a disorderly persons offense, and it also carries a minimum fine of $500. If you were in a vehicle at the time of your arrest, you could also lose your driving privileges in New Jersey for six months.
  •     Driving Under the Influence (DUI) Under 21 – DUI under 21 is a serious crime. In addition to the penalties mentioned above, you can also face jail time, insurance surcharges, mandatory alcohol education, and other penalties.

What Consequences Can You Face as a College Student in New Jersey?

As a college student, the consequences of any arrest or conviction can extend far beyond the statutory penalties. You will also likely face disciplinary action at school, which could lead to suspension, expulsion, or other consequences. Having a record will also impact your job prospects after you graduate, and this could have financial ramifications for years to come.

What if You are an Out-of-State Student?

If you are an out-of-state student attending college in New Jersey, you can still be prosecuted and sentenced in the New Jersey courts. The New Jersey courts can suspend your driving privileges in the state, and they can submit a report to your state’s motor vehicle department, which may result in complete loss of driving privileges. All other penalties (and other consequences) apply regardless of where you permanently reside.

Speak with a New Jersey Underage Drinking Attorney in Confidence

Are you facing an underage drinking charge as a college student? If so, we can help. To speak with an experienced New Jersey underage drinking lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A. in confidence, call 877-435-6371 or tell us how to reach you online now.

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