While alcohol and marijuana use are both legal in New Jersey, possession and use are illegal for people under the age of 21. The laws exist to keep minors safe, and breaking them comes with harsh penalties. With the recent decriminalization of marijuana, the consequences for minors are less severe but still exist. If you are a minor or a parent with a child facing charged of being under the influence, the best course of action is to contact a local New Jersey DUI attorney like Leon Matchin.
Leon has years of experience defending minors in court to have charges dropped or at least downgraded. As a minor, the last thing you want to do is have a permanent record before you even turn 21. A record can harm your ability to apply to college, join the military, or get future jobs. Don’t feel overwhelmed! Take a minute to learn about underage charges, review your options, and contact a local attorney.
For those under the age of 21, there is a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol use. Whether you’ve had one drink or six drinks, it’s illegal. Purchasing alcohol when you are under the age of 21 is also illegal. Some minors use a fake ID or try to purchase hoping they won’t be asked to show ID. If you buy alcohol as an underage minor, you face a $500 fine and can lose your driver’s license for up to six months. If you don’t have your driver’s license yet, your six-month suspension will start when you are eligible to get your license. In addition, you might have to participate in an alcohol education program.
Even if you didn’t buy the alcohol, you still face steep penalties if you’re caught with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of any amount. Remember, as a minor, the zero-tolerance policy means even a tiny traceable amount of alcohol in your system can lead to a charge. If you have alcohol in your system and are under the age of 21, you can lose your driver’s license for 30-90 days, have to participate in community service hours for 15-30 days, and potentially participate in an alcohol and safety education program.
Underage Marijuana Use
As you may have heard, New Jersey recently decriminalized possession of certain amounts of marijuana and also legalized recreational use. Last November, legalizing recreational marijuana was one of the items on the ballot during the election. Residents voted to legalize it. In February 2021, laws defined the exact rules and stipulations surrounding the legalization. Previously, only medical marijuana use had been legal in New Jersey.
Proponents of legalization are excited about the potential benefits to the economy. They also like the idea of people avoiding criminal charges and permanent records for possessing or using marijuana. In addition, proponents believe that regulating marijuana is a significant drain on police resources and taxpayer money. Those against legalization have their reasons as well. Many believe that marijuana is in fact a drug and that drugs shouldn’t be legal, no matter the circumstance. They think that legalization is an overall bad idea for society. Opponents also believe that marijuana can be a gateway drug to order more dangerous, addictive substances.
All that being said, even though New Jersey has legalized recreational marijuana, it is limited to individuals over the age of 21. That means that those under 21 can still get in trouble for possessing and/or using marijuana.
Thanks to decriminalization, reduced consequences exist for minors. A first violation leads to a written warning. A second and third violation receives a written warning and also a referral for community service hours.
It’s important to note that these write-ups do not lead to a criminal record. This means that future employers won’t ever know that you were charged with marijuana use or possession as a minor. If you are under 18, your parents or guardians will receive the write-up.
Help from a New Jersey DUI Attorney
As a minor, there are specific laws that have different rules and consequences due to your underage status. Being under the influence is one of those laws. While adults can legally drink and can even drive as long as they maintain a BAC of under 0.08, there is a zero-tolerance policy for minors under the age of 21. If you are caught buying or drinking alcohol, there are steep consequences like license suspension, community service, and fines.
As far as marijuana possession and use go, it is only legal for adults 21 and over. Due to the recent decriminalization of marijuana, minors won’t face a criminal charge for possessing or using marijuana, but they will get a write-up and a potential referral for community service hours. If the minor is under the age of 18, the parent or legal guardian receives the write-up.
If you or your child is facing under the influence charges as a minor, it’s not a be-all-and-end-all. While it may feel overwhelming at the time, a good New Jersey DUI attorney can represent you in court to hopefully have charges completely dropped or at least downgraded.
Leon Matchin has worked with many minors throughout his career. His expertise and guidance are helpful during a usually overwhelming time of facing charges and going to court. To learn more about under the influence charges as a minor, contact Leon Matchin to set up an initial consultation. During your meeting, he will see if your case qualifies and provide you with information about the application process. Start today! Contact Leon Matchin by phone at 732-887-2479, or email him at [email protected].