Belmar New Jersey Underage Drinking Lawyer
It may start as fun and relaxation at a concert or on the beach with friends, but if the festivities involve alcohol in the hands of underage drinkers, it can turn into a talk with the police. New Jersey has laws against anyone under 21 having alcohol in their possession, and the police in Belmar can intervene if they find underage drinking happening. However, recent changes to New Jersey law have essentially decriminalized underage drinking. While no criminal penalty is associated with breaking the law, you can still have a run-in with the police that ends in a written warning for an offense of underage alcohol consumption.
If you find yourself in a situation where you or someone you know has had an underage drinking incident in Belmar, you need to consult with a Belmar underage drinking attorney immediately. At Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates, we have the expertise to help you navigate this uncertain time. In fact, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney Tara Breslow-Testa takes care of each case personally. Lending her expertise to clients, she catches issues that might be missed at larger firms that delegate work to subordinates. Call our firm today at (732) 784-2880 or contact us online.Legal Age
As with every state in the nation, the legal age to consume alcohol in New Jersey is 21 years old. Anyone who hasn't passed their twenty-first birthday violates the law if they have alcohol in their possession or consume it. There are exceptions to these restrictions, though. People who work in a job that handles alcohol, like a restaurant or hotel, are allowed to possess alcohol for their work. The law also provides for religious observations that involve the consumption of some alcohol and for teens to drink in private places.Restrictions
The law isn't limited to people caught drinking alcohol underage—even just having a bottle of alcohol in your possession, even if it is sealed and has never been opened—can face the same legal consequences as someone who has consumed alcohol. Even with recent changes in how the law is enforced, New Jersey law specifies the types of places where alcohol possession by anyone under 21 is forbidden, including:
- Any school, whether public or private, high school or university
- On a public conveyance, such as a bus, train, airplane, or even rideshare like an Uber
- Any public place, like a beach, park, restaurant, or the street
- A place of public assembly like a sports arena or concert hall
- A motor vehicle, including a car or motorcycle
Before the changes to the law in 2021, an underage drinker could be charged with a disorderly persons offense. Under the new law, an underage drinker can get a written warning from a law enforcement officer. Teens under 18 will have a copy of the warning sent to a parent, guardian, or person with legal custody of the teenager.
A second violation can also bring a written warning, like that issued for the first violation. Included with the second warning is information about accessing community and social services related to alcohol consumption, such as:
- Tutoring programs
- Mentoring services
- Faith-based or community initiatives
For those under 18, the second warning plus alcohol-awareness social services information is also transmitted to the teen's parent or guardian.
For a third or subsequent violation, the process is very similar. The officer who intervenes in underage drinking can issue a write-up and provide information about social services related to alcohol consumption.
In the third instance and after, though, the police also provide the personal contact information of the violator to the community or social service organization so that the alcohol-awareness and treatment program office can reach out to the person who violated the law. Even though the organization can contact the person, who was caught with alcohol while under the legal drinking age, the person has no legal duty or obligation to follow through with any type of treatment or counseling or take any other action. There can be no legal consequences or penalties for failure to engage in any treatment, education, or counseling as recommended by the police officer.No Further Action By Law Enforcement
So, while the police can stop an underage drinker and issue the warnings discussed above, they have no power to leverage that encounter into a full search of the underage drinker's person or property, including a car. The new law forbids police from using the odor of alcohol, or even the unconcealed possession of alcohol by a minor, as reasonable suspicion to allow the officer to conduct an investigatory stop. The visible presence or odor of alcohol is also not probable cause to search the person.Belmar Underage Drinking Lawyer
Let us help you through this challenging time; we can support you and steer you down the right path. The attorneys at Tara Breslow-Testa and Associates are able and available to help you with their years of expertise when it comes to underage drinking offenses in Belmar. Indeed, criminal defense lawyer Tara Breslow-Testa lends her expertise to each case. She advocates for her clients from the beginning to end of their cases. Call our firm today at (732) 784-2880 or contact us online.