by Kristy Bruce, Esq.

We all know DWI/DUI means Driving While Intoxicated/Driving Under the Influence. However, I find many of my fellow parents still fuzzy about “Baby DWI/DUI.” Otherwise rational people have confessed that during the traditional high school prom and graduation season –– and the Jersey Shore vacation season –– it can be easier to hide their heads in the sand or simply hold their breaths and ride the wave.

The reality is, New Jersey’s DUI penalties for young people under the age of 21 who consume alcohol and operate a motor vehicle are no day at the beach. Moreover, if the alcohol is consumed on your property, you can be penalized as well.

In fact, any person in New Jersey “under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages who operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01 percent or more, but less than 0.08 percent, by weight of alcohol in his blood, shall forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State or shall be prohibited from obtaining a license to operate a motor vehicle in this State for a period of not less than 30 or more than 90 days beginning on the date he becomes eligible to obtain a license or on the day of conviction, whichever is later, and shall perform community service for a period of not less than 15 or more than 30 days.”

“In addition, the person shall satisfy the program and fee requirements of an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center or participate in a program of alcohol education and highway safety as prescribed by the chief administrator.”

Maybe those penalties are still not tough enough because we often hear of people –– again, seemingly rational people –– who think it’s okay to overlook teen drinking as long as the kids stay put within the safety of someone’s home.

Not to spoil the party, but serving alcohol to minors in New Jersey is a disorderly person offense! If someone is seriously injured by an intoxicated minor who just left your party you could face criminal charges as well. Additionally, if one of the kids at the party injures himself or someone else, you can be sued for the injuries caused and the medical expenses incurred.

While there is always a chance that you will not get caught, if the party is loud and the police are called, they will discover you are serving minors. Additionally, if one of the parents of your teenager’s friends finds out that you served alcohol, they could report you to the police.

Now more than ever, teens are being taught the laws and encouraged to respect them. And situations still occur, perhaps due to a “right of passage” mentality. Whether you are the victim or the perpetrator, it is important to speak with a qualified attorney as soon as possible. Contact our office for a free consultation.

Kristy Bruce is an attorney at The Rubinstein Law Firm, LLC, located at 10 Rutgers Place in Trenton. She can be reached at 609-392-7600 or at kbruce@njpa-law.com.

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