Elizabeth, NJ—In both Elizabeth, NJ as well as the entire state of New Jersey, a person must be 21 years old to legally purchase or consume any alcoholic beverage on a licensed premises. While most people are aware of this law, underage drinking is rampant—the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 20 percent of people aged 12 to 20 drank alcohol in the past 30 days. According to the State of New Jersey Department of Human Services Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services, New Jersey youth appear to be experimenting with alcohol at a rate above the national average, with approximately 470,000 underage youth in New Jersey drinking each year.
There can be serious legal ramifications for underage drinking in New Jersey.
Pursuant to NJ Rev Stat § 2C:33-15 (2013), “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,” can be charged with a disorderly person offense. The penalties are the same as for any disorderly persons offense, including a fine of at least $500.
If this underage drinking offense is committed in a motor vehicle, the court must suspend the offender’s driver’s license for six months. If the offender is under 17 at the time of the sentence, the court must postpone the offender’s driving privilege for six months.
Additionally, the court may require any person who violates this act to participate in an alcohol education or treatment program.
It is particularly important to understand that underage drinking in New Jersey under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15 is classified a disorderly persons offense. A disorderly persons offense will appear on your criminal record and cannot be expunged from your record for at least five years from the disposition date. Many young adults who receive a disorderly persons offense conviction for underage drinking are entering the job market and a criminal record can significantly hamper employment opportunities.
While underage drinking may be commonplace, the New Jersey courts nonetheless take this unlawful behavior seriously. If you or your child has been charged with underage drinking in New Jersey, contact the law office of Eric M. Mark to discuss your situation. As a former assistant prosecutor, I am familiar with the inner workings of criminal prosecutions and the New Jersey criminal court system and have the requisite knowledge and experience to guide you through the legal process. I will work tirelessly to resolve your case in the best way possible. If you have been previously charged with a disorderly persons offense for underage drinking, I can also assist with getting this conviction expunged from your criminal record.
Call 973-453-2009 to schedule your free consultation with a criminal defense attorney in Elizabeth, NJ.