How Does New Jersey Handle Underage DWI Cases?

  • DWI

Drivers under the age of 21 who are charged with DWI (driving while intoxicated) in New Jersey must be represented by the right New Jersey DWI lawyer – a lawyer who routinely and successfully handles underage DWI cases.

More teens are charged with DWI than you may think. Is your own teenager at risk? If you’ll keep reading, you will learn what New Jersey parents and their teens need to know about driving while intoxicated, and you’ll also learn what to do if your own teenager is charged with DWI.

For DWI offenders under the age of 21, New Jersey is a zero-tolerance state. It is against the law for a person under age 21 to buy, possess, or consume an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle, school, place of public assembly, public place, or public conveyance anywhere in New Jersey.

How Many Teens Drink and Drive?

However, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 10% of U.S. teens admit to drinking and driving more than once. And every day in this nation, 11,000 teenagers try alcohol for the first time.

Underage drivers, according to the CDC, are 17% more likely to be involved in a fatal traffic accident after drinking. Alcohol is a leading factor in fatal crashes that involve teens, so those who are arrested for driving while intoxicated should consider themselves the lucky ones.

How are the DWI rules different for underage drivers in New Jersey? What does “no tolerance” actually mean, and what penalties can be imposed on underage drivers who are convicted of driving while intoxicated?

What is New Jersey’s Underage DWI Law?

New Jersey enforces some of the strictest DWI laws in the nation. It does not matter how old you are. In this state, it is illegal for anyone who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs to operate a motor vehicle under any circumstances on either public or private property.

An adult may be charged with DWI if his or her blood alcohol content (BAC) level measures at or above 0.08% when the arrest takes place. But if you’re under 21, you can be charged with DWI in New Jersey if your BAC level measures at or above 0.01% when the arrest takes place.

It does not matter if an underage driver was actually too impaired to drive or if the alcohol was part of any medicine or food that the driver consumed. Any underage driver who is driving with any measurable trace of alcohol in the blood is in violation of New Jersey law.

What Are the Penalties for Underage DWI Convictions?

A conviction for underage driving while intoxicated may be penalized in New Jersey with a 90-day driver’s license suspension, up to 30 days performing community service, and 12 hours of court-ordered participation in the IDRC (Intoxicated Driver Resource Center) program.

However, if an underage driver’s BAC level measures at or above 0.08%, the driver may face additional penalties comparable to the DWI penalties for adults. Those penalties may include a driver’s license suspension, up to 30 days in jail, and up to 48 hours in the IDRC program.

Exact sentences will be determined by the details of each case. If an underage driver’s BAC level was at or above 0.10% at the time of the arrest, if anyone’s property was damaged, if someone was injured, or if the driver refused to take a breathalyzer test, harsher penalties may be imposed.

What Are the Other Consequences of Teen Drinking and Driving?

When teenagers drink and drive, they are more likely than adults who drink and drive to be at fault for an accident or charged with DWI. Particularly if an impaired underage driver damages someone else’s property or injures someone, the legal consequences can be quite severe.

No teenager should have to face the future with a record that includes a conviction for driving while intoxicated. A variety of employment and educational opportunities may become unavailable to a young person who has been convicted of DWI.

Moreover, a number of school sports teams and clubs will not allow anyone who has a driving while intoxicated conviction to join or to continue participation.

Drinking can also have a severely negative impact on a teenager’s academic performance and a teen’s overall health. Nothing is more important than our children and their futures. If your teen needs alcohol or drug counseling or treatment, get that counseling or treatment help right away.

How Can a DWI Attorney Help?

If your child is arrested for “standard” DWI or underage DWI in New Jersey, you will need to reach out to the right New Jersey DWI attorney, and you will need to make the call as quickly as possible.

If the evidence against a teen DWI defendant is strong, leniency should not be expected, but in many cases, a good New Jersey DWI defense attorney can cast doubt on a prosecutor’s evidence against a DWI defendant.

In some cases, a DWI attorney may be able to have the court dismiss an underage or standard DWI charge against your teen, but in every case, the right attorney will work diligently on your family’s behalf to protect your child and bring the matter to its best possible outcome.

What Can Parents Do?

If your teenager is arrested for DWI, find out who was with your child, how much alcohol was consumed, and what happened before and during the arrest. Your teenager may reveal something to you that your New Jersey DWI lawyer may find helpful in the young person’s defense.

In New Jersey, how can teen driving while intoxicated arrests, accidents, injuries, and fatalities be reduced? Parents are the key. If you are the parent of one or more teenagers, do whatever you can to teach the dangers of driving while intoxicated.

Parents must speak candidly with teens about DWI. The CDC tells us that alcohol is now the most commonly abused drug by people under 21. And although 21 is the age limit for drinking in every state, youths aged 12 to 20 account for about 10% of the alcohol consumed in the U.S.

Teen drivers should understand that New Jersey’s DWI laws are different for them, and they should also understand that New Jersey’s law enforcement officers and courts enforce this state’s driving while intoxicated laws routinely and aggressively.

Related Blog Posts

What Are the Consequences of a DWI Conviction in New Jersey?

Will I Automatically Be Deported After a DWI Conviction in New Jersey?

Steven W. Hernandez, Board-Certified DUI Attorney

What Is a Drug Recognition Expert?