New Jersey law

Crimes committed by minors and legal adults can have different consequences. For example, alcohol is legal for those who are 21 and older. A 30-year-old adult would not be committing a crime by having one glass of wine at dinner. However, a 16-year-old would because of zero-tolerance laws. Another example is recreational marijuana use. According to New Jersey law, marijuana is now legal for adults 21 and older to purchase, possess, and use up to a certain amount. Even though it’s been decriminalized for adults, marijuana use is still illegal for those under 21.

Another issue with being charged as a minor is that you now have a criminal record that can make it difficult to apply for college or certain jobs. Fortunately, by working with an attorney, minors can potentially have charges against them dropped or at least downgraded to avoid a mark on their permanent record. If you are a minor or the parent of a minor, it’s essential to understand the potential consequences of certain charges and how they can affect your future.   

Possession or Under the Influence of Alcohol

Alcohol is legal for adults who are 21 and older, but there is a zero-tolerance law for anyone under 21. This law means no alcohol, not even a small glass, is legal. If a minor is caught with any amount of alcohol in their possession or in their system via a BAC test, they can get in trouble with the law.

As a minor, you will face a $500 fine and lose your license for up to six months if you are caught buying alcohol. If you don’t have a driver’s license yet, your six months will start from when you are eligible to get your license. Not only do you face charges for buying alcohol as a minor; the store you purchased from can also face charges. This is why establishments that sell alcohol need to be extremely careful about always checking for IDs and physically examining the ID to ensure it isn’t fake.

You don’t have to buy alcohol to get in trouble as a minor. If you consume any amount of alcohol, you risk being charged due to zero-tolerance laws. If you have any alcohol in your system, you can lose your driver’s license for 30-90 days. In addition, the court will assign community service hours and participation in an alcohol safety education course. 

College students need to be extremely careful when it comes to alcohol. Alcohol is everywhere in college – at house parties, bars, football games, etc. It’s easy to get caught up in the fun and feel safe in your college environment but remember, if you are under 21, it’s illegal.

Possession or Under the Influence of Marijuana

Up until last year, marijuana possession and use was only legal for medical purposes. Patients who needed medical marijuana were required to register with the state and carry around a Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) card. In November 2020, New Jersey citizens voted to legalize and decriminalize recreational marijuana use. Does this mean you can possess 100g of marijuana and drive high? No, there are still many rules and regulations regarding legal marijuana use. For example, if you are under the age of 21, marijuana is still illegal. That being said, marijuana use and possession for minors is decriminalized. This decriminalization means that the penalties are less harsh, and it won’t lead to a permanent criminal record. 

A first-time marijuana offense as a minor leads to a written warning. Subsequent charges come with additional written warnings, as well as referrals for community service hours. If the minor is under the age of 18, parents will receive the written warnings. 

Help from an Attorney for New Jersey Law

Getting a charge as a minor is scary and overwhelming. Fortunately, you have options. First, contact an attorney who is familiar with New Jersey law. By working with an attorney, you have the chance to have charges downgraded, avoiding harsher consequences and a criminal record. In some cases, an attorney can have charges completely dropped. 

If you are an adult and charges you received as a minor are still haunting you, look into the expungement process. Expungement is the process of applying to have your record erased. This means that when you apply for college or jobs in the future, you can honestly say that you don’t have a criminal record. An expungement is an excellent option for adults looking to escape charges they received as a minor. 

The key to fighting charges given to minors is to work with an experienced attorney like Leon Matchin. Leon has worked with many minors over the past couple of decades to have charges dropped, downgraded, and even expunged later on. Schedule an initial consultation with Leon to learn more about the court process and how he can create a successful defense. Make sure to be open and honest about every detail of your situation. You never know what might help create a successful defense. 

To learn more about charges as a minor, contact Leon Matchin to set up an initial consultation. His knowledge of New Jersey law has helped him defend many minors facing charges over the years. Contact Leon Matchin by phone at 732-887-2479, or email him at [email protected].