Underage Possession of Alcohol
The legal age to purchase alcohol in New Jersey is 21. Anyone under the legal age caught possessing or consuming alcohol faces criminal prosecution in New Jersey. These are serious charges. Indeed, the seemingly minor charge involving an underage person caught drinking a beer, doing a shot or enjoying a glass of wine can potentially result in a permanent criminal record. As a result, if you are charged with Underage Possession or Consumption of Alcohol, it is important that you have an experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney by your side.
New Jersey statute 2C:33-15 provides:
Possession, consumption of alcoholic beverages by persons under legal age; penalty.
1. 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 New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission 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.
If a person at the time of the imposition of a sentence has a valid driver’s license issued by this State, the court shall immediately collect the license and forward it to the commission along with the report. If for any reason the license cannot be collected, the court shall include in the report the complete name, address, date of birth, eye color, and sex of the person as well as the first and last date of the license suspension period imposed by the court.
The court shall inform the person orally and in writing that if the person is convicted of operating a motor vehicle during the period of license suspension or postponement, the person shall be subject to the penalties set forth in R.S.39:3-40. A person shall be required to acknowledge receipt of the written notice in writing. Failure to receive a written notice or failure to acknowledge in writing the receipt of a written notice shall not be a defense to a subsequent charge of a violation of R.S.39:3-40.
If the person convicted under this section is not a New Jersey resident, the court shall suspend or postpone, as appropriate, the non-resident driving privilege of the person based on the age of the person and submit to the commission the required report. The court shall not collect the license of a non-resident convicted under this section. Upon receipt of a report by the court, the commission shall notify the appropriate officials in the licensing jurisdiction of the suspension or postponement.
c. In addition to the general penalty prescribed for a disorderly persons offense, the court may require any person who violates this act to participate in an alcohol education or treatment program, authorized by the Department of Health and Senior Services, for a period not to exceed the maximum period of confinement prescribed by law for the offense for which the individual has been convicted.
d. Nothing in this act shall apply to possession of alcoholic beverages by any such person while actually engaged in the performance of employment pursuant to an employment permit issued by the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or for a bona fide hotel or restaurant, in accordance with the provisions of R.S.33:1-26, or while actively engaged in the preparation of food while enrolled in a culinary arts or hotel management program at a county vocational school or post secondary educational institution.
e. The provisions of section 3 of P.L.1991, c.169 (C.33:1-81.1a) shall apply to a parent, guardian or other person with legal custody of a person under 18 years of age who is found to be in violation of this section.
f. An underage person and one or two other persons shall be immune from prosecution under this section if:
(1) one of the underage persons called 9-1-1 and reported that another underage person was in need of medical assistance due to alcohol consumption;
(2) the underage person who called 9-1-1 and, if applicable, one or two other persons acting in concert with the underage person who called 9-1-1 provided each of their names to the 9-1-1 operator;
(3) the underage person was the first person to make the 9-1-1 report; and
(4) the underage person and, if applicable, one or two other persons acting in concert with the underage person who made the 9-1-1 call remained on the scene with the person under the legal age in need of medical assistance until assistance arrived and cooperated with medical assistance and law enforcement personnel on the scene.
The underage person who received medical assistance also shall be immune from prosecution under this section.