Underage driving while intoxicated is a problem nationwide. Over 8% of all high school students in the U.S. admit to having gotten behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, while 24% admit to riding with a driver that had consumed alcohol. Moreover, over 1,000 people under the age of 21 are killed in drunk driving accidents every year. That is more than three teens per day.
For these reasons, New Jersey treats underage DWI drivers very seriously and has adopted a near-zero tolerance policy. While an individual over the age of 21 can be convicted of DWI only if their blood alcohol limit (BAC) is at .08% of higher, those who are under the age of 21 can be convicted of DWI if their BAC is only .01% or greater.
There are several types offenses that an underage DWI driver can be charged with. If convicted, underage DWI drivers are subject to the following penalties:
Underage DWI (BAC .01% to .79%)
- Mandatory license suspension of between 30 to 90 days;
- Mandatory sentence of community service between 15 to 30 days;
- Participation in IDRC (a program related to alcohol education and highway safety); and
Underage DWI (BAC .08% to .99%)
- Mandatory license suspension of 90 days;
- Up to 30 days in jail;
- A sentence of between 12 to 48 hours of IDRC; and
- Fines and surcharges.
Underage DWI (BAC .10% and Higher);
- Mandatory license suspension of 7 to 12 months;
Up to 30 days in jail;
A sentence of between 12 to 48 hours of IDRC; and
Fines and surcharges.
In addition to being charged with underage DWI, an underage drinker may also be charged with underage possession or consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle, a disorderly persons offense, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15. Under this statute, a person under the age of 21 who consumes or possesses alcohol in a motor vehicle, including passengers, may be charged with violating this statute. Penalties include up to six months in jail, a six-month loss of license, and a fine of more than $500.00. If a driver that is not yet eligible to obtain a driver’s license is convicted of any of the above offenses, the suspension period will start to run when the driver becomes eligible. This means that a 90-day suspension will result in the license application being pushed back by 90 days.
A conviction for any of the above offenses can result in a several consequences that could jeopardize the teen’s future. For example, many colleges and universities perform background checks. A DWI or disorderly persons offense conviction may cause a university to decline an application for enrollment or a scholarship. A DWI or disorderly persons offense conviction could also cause an employer to decline a job offer. Moreover, DWI convictions may also cause automobile insurance companies to deny coverage altogether or to significantly increase premiums for coverage.
Many defenses are available for underage DWI charges in New Jersey. If an underage person is charged with a low threshold .01% DWI, for example, an attorney could challenge the BAC reading. There are many substances other than alcohol, such as hand sanitizers, that could cause a lower BAC reading. After reviewing the facts of your case, an experienced DWI attorney will know which defenses are applicable. If you or your child is charged with an underage drinking violation, contact Randolph H. Wolf today at (732) 741-4448 to discuss your case.