Prosecution and Defense

Underage DWI

1. What are New Jersey’s underage DWI laws?

New Jersey has established a special law that is aimed at the operation of a motor vehicle by underage drivers. N.J.S.A. 39:4-50.14 forbids the operation of a motor vehicle by any person under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages when that person has consumed virtually any amount of any alcoholic beverage. New Jersey has a zero tolerance policy for underage driver who even have a trace of alcohol in their system. The NJ Underage DWI law makes it illegal for a person under the age of twenty-one (21) to have any amount, no matter how small, of any alcohol in their system while operating a motor vehicle. However, the fines and the length of the potential driver’s license suspension are less severe than a standard DWI case. In an underage DWI case, the potential license suspension can be as light as only thirty days. Meanwhile, in a standard DWI case, the minimum license suspension in a tier one case is ninety days. The harshest part of an underage DWI conviction is that there is a mandatory 15 to 30 days of community service. It can take a young person an awful long time to complete 15 to 30 days of community service.

If you are under 21 years old and if you are convicted for DWI with a BAC of .01% or higher, then the following penalties apply:

* 30–90 day license suspension

* Mandatory Fines and Penalties

* 15–30 days of mandatory community service

* Participation in the IDRC Program

If you are unlicensed and under 17 years of age at the time of the incident, you are subject to a 30–90 day delay in processing your driver license. In New Jersey you must be 21 to purchase, possess or consume alcoholic beverages. Underage drinking is illegal, and it can have severe consequences for young people who drink, and for adults who provide alcoholic beverages to those under 21.

If a defendant buys and drinks alcohol in a place with an alcohol beverage license, then you may be fined $500, and lose your driver’s license for 6 months. If a defendant does not have a driver’s license, then the driver’s license suspension starts when the underage defendant is first eligible to receive a license. Moreover, the underage driver may be required to participate in an alcohol treatment program.

2. What are the required elements of proof to establish an underage DWI case?

New Jersey’s underage DWI statute establishes three elements to be proved by the prosecution. First, the State must prove that the defendant operated a motor vehicle. The second element that must be proved by the State is that the defendant was under the legal age to purchase alcohol at the time of the operation. Evidence on this issue is usually readily available to the prosecutor from the information contained on the defendant’s driver’s license. The final element that that the prosecutor must prove is that the defendant had a BAC of at least 0.01%. Typically, the police will attempt to receive this evidence by way of a breathalyzer test or by taking a blood sample.