When considering whether your underage child and their friends are responsible enough to drink alcohol, you may make the mistake many parents do, thinking they would rather their child drink at home than get caught drinking outside the home. Your instinct may be to protect your child from getting in trouble, but you could endanger your liberty by aiding another minor to drink alcohol in New Jersey. New Jersey law is specific and unyielding regarding underage drinking and those who facilitate it. The law is not without exceptions, though.
A conviction for supplying alcohol to an underage drinker can haunt an individual for years. Given the time, money, and stigma attached to an offense on your record, it is critical to speak with a criminal defense attorney about your options. If you or your son or daughter has been charged with serving or providing alcohol to minors in Burlington County, contact our experienced criminal defense lawyers at Proetta, Oliver & Fay for assistance in a cost-free consultation. Our firm defends underage drinking and serving or offering alcohol to a minor cases regularly in towns such as Bordentown, Willingboro, Mount Laurel, Evesham, Pemberton, Riverside, and many others. Contact us at (609) 850-8284 to find out more about how we can assist with defending your case.
What is the Legal Age to Consume Alcohol in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, it is illegal for persons under 21 to purchase, consume, or possess alcohol in public, at school, or in a vehicle (N.J.S.A. 2C:33-15). Underage drinking on private property is not expressly illegal according to the statute but may be a violation of local ordinances in certain cities and municipalities and should be avoided to prevent charging of a minor or a legal adult between the ages of 18 and 21. A conviction for underage drinking leads to possible jail time of up to six months and a fine of up to $1,000.00 for a disorderly persons offense. If the underage drinker is a minor, they may be adjudicated a juvenile delinquent in family court. Moreover, underage drinking in a vehicle (even for an unopened container of an alcoholic beverage) can result in a driver’s license suspension or postponement for six months. Underage DUI charges are also punished severely in New Jersey.
Serving or Selling Alcohol to Minors Charges in NJ
New Jersey law punishes anyone convicted of intentionally serving or making alcohol available to anyone under the legal drinking age of 21, according to N.J.S.A 2C:33-17. The law also prohibits encouraging or luring a minor to drink alcohol. It is also illegal to intentionally allow underage drinking on your property, even if you are not there or not the one providing the alcohol. Further, any underage drinker involved in an injury or fatal accident with alcohol in their system that you provided to them can mean a violation of the social host liability law.
How Serious are the Penalties for Providing Alcohol to a Minor in New Jersey?
A violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-17 results in a maximum jail term of six months and a fine of $1,000.00 after conviction. It is a disorderly persons offense to intentionally serve or make alcohol available to anyone under 21 or host underage drinking. Aside from a high fine and possible jail time, a person may face the consequences of a conviction on their record every time a potential employer, landlord, or university admissions officer runs a background check. A student over the age of 21 who provides alcohol to people drinking under the legal age, which is common in college settings, may also place their scholarship at risk or face suspension from school.
Am I Going to Jail for a 2C:33-17 Offense in NJ?
If it is your first offense, the likelihood of your going to jail is low. Disorderly persons offenses are typically minor offenses that judges presume are not resulting in incarceration for a first-time offender. They may end up with probation or community service. That may not be the case if the underage drinker that you supplied alcohol to drove off and killed someone. A judge may consider that an aggravating factor that warrants jail time. Regardless of the case, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense lawyer preparing your defense and seeking to reduce or dismiss the charges if possible. You may be able to avoid a criminal conviction on your record altogether with a skilled attorney on your side.
Am I Eligible for a Diversionary Program?
You may be eligible for a diversionary program if it is your first offense. You may apply in municipal court and, if accepted, avoid jail and conviction. Instead, you may have to attend educational programs, check in with a probation officer, or perform community service. After completing the program, the state drops the charges against you. However, you must prepare and present the court with your application and show that you are eligible and would make a successful candidate. Not all who apply get in, so having a lawyer to assist you can go a long way toward securing your acceptance. Your chances of getting into a diversionary program can be greater with an attorney’s assistance.
Can Minors Drink Alcohol with Parents in NJ?
If drinking consists of consenting adults over the age of 21 providing alcohol to their children drinking alcohol, you fall into one of the law’s exceptions. Alcohol served during a religious ceremony, service, or rite is not illegal, even if an individual under the age of 21 drinks. Also, you may serve alcohol to your child under 21 while you are present or to another individual under 21 if their parent is present and consents. Thus, it is not illegal to serve alcohol to an underage drinker with the permission and presence of their parent or parents. However, the host may still be liable to a third party if the underage drinker drives off, gets in an accident, and injures another.
What is Social Host Liability?
Violating the social host liability law subjects you to civil liability in New Jersey. Social host liability occurs if someone provides or allows alcohol service to a person under 21 years old, who is visibly intoxicated, and whom the host knows or should know would leave the premises in a motor vehicle. When that intoxicated underage drinker gets in an accident due to alcohol consumption, the host is then liable to any third party who suffers injuries or death due to the accident. According to Estate of Narleski vs. Gomes, 459 N.J. Super. 377 (2019), the host may be liable even if they are not over the age of 21.
The accident victim or their family may sue you for damages due to their injuries or lost loved ones in a personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death action. Thus, when your 18-year-old child has a drinking party at your home, you may be civilly liable for one of their 18-year-old friends driving off from the party and injuring someone in a car accident. However, you are responsible only if you were aware of the drinking party and allowed it to occur, even though you may not have been present while the party took place.
Contact Serving Alcohol to Minors Attorneys in Evesham NJ
Contact our criminal defense lawyers at Proetta, Oliver & Fay who are experienced with serving alcohol to minors cases to help you or your child get the best outcome from an unfortunate circumstance. With our help, you may be able to get into a diversionary program, or we can negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce the charges against you. If you have valid defenses, we know the best ways to contest the charges in court. After all, the prosecution must prove all of the elements of the offense involving alcohol availability and underage individuals before they can convince a judge to convict you. Moreover, we are prepared to handle your child’s charges for underage drinking to avoid harsh punishment in the juvenile justice system or the adult system, as this can heavily impact their prospects in later years. Call us today at (609) 850-8284 for a free consultation about your case and additional information.
Our phones are answered 24 hours a day. We are available weekdays during business hours. We also meet with clients on evenings and weekends by request. We have four office locations conveniently located in Jersey City, Edison, Middletown, Cranford, Burlington, and Hamilton. All major credit cards are accepted.
525 Highway 73, Suite 104, Marlton, New Jersey 08053 Phone: 609-850-8284 By Appointment Only
100 Horizon Center Boulevard, Hamilton, New Jersey, 08691 By Appointment Only
Point Pleasant Office
3828 River Road,
Suite A, Point Pleasant,
New Jersey 08742
By Appointment Only
180 Kings Highway, Middletown Township, New Jersey 07748 By Appointment Only