Underage possession of alcohol is a criminal offense in New Jersey governed by N.J.S. 2C:33-15 which provides in pertinent part:
§ 2C:33-15. Possession, consumption of alcoholic beverages by persons under legal age; penalty
a. 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 persons offense, and shall be fined not less than $ 500.00.
b. Whenever this offense is committed in a motor vehicle, the court shall, in addition to the sentence authorized for the offense, suspend or postpone for six months the driving privilege of the defendant. Upon the conviction of any person under this section, the court shall forward a report to the Division of Motor Vehicles stating the first and last day of the suspension or postponement period imposed by the court pursuant to this section. If a person at the time of the imposition of a sentence is less than 17 years of age, the period of license postponement, including a suspension or postponement of the privilege of operating a motorized bicycle, shall commence on the day the sentence is imposed and shall run for a period of six months after the person reaches the age of 17 years.
Penalties: A Disorderly Persons Offense and Criminal Record
The above statute details the criminal offense in New Jersey for underage drinking which is called underage possession of alcohol. This is a disorderly persons offense in New Jersey which includes up to a $1,000.00 fine, up to six (6) months in the county jail, and a permanent criminal charge on your record if convicted (subject to expungement after five (5) years in certain cases). This violation can also result in a driver’s license suspension for six (6) months if the offense was committed in a motor vehicle.
NOTE: It is a violation of the above statute for a person under the legal drinking age (21) to consume or possess alcohol in New Jersey. Therefore, the fact that the underage defendant does not have any alcohol in their system is not an absolute defense if the defendant was in possession of the alcoholic beverage.
I know how important it is for a young person to preserve their record. A criminal charge like underage drinking on a young person’s record is a serious black mark that could effect future school and employment opportunities. It is imperative that you hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer to combat these charges and preserve your record.