New Jersey: Underage DUI/DWI

The drinking age in New Jersey is 21 and consumption of alcohol by anyone under 21 is illegal with the following exceptions:

  • on private, non alcohol-selling premises, with consent of a legal guardian  --for example, with legal guardian’s permission at a party, or
  • for religious purposes – for example, drinking wine with religious ceremony, or
  • for medical purposes – for example, a physician administering a medical treatment, or
  • for educational purposes – for example, studying at a culinary school.

Because underage drinkers cause a disproportionate number of alcohol-related auto fatalities, the standards are stricter and the penalties may be harsher for those under 21.

More information about New Jersey’s teen driving requirements.

What constitutes driving under the influence?

New Jersey is a zero-tolerance state. If a chemical test determines that a driver under 21 has a blood alcohol content BAC of .01% or higher, the driver can be cited for driving under the influence. (For those 21 or older, the BAC is .08%)

What are the penalties?

If you are under 21, drive with any detectable amount of alcohol in your system (.01 BAC or above), and are convicted for violating New Jersey’s zero tolerance law, the penalties are:     

  • Loss or postponement of driving privileges for 30 to 90 days
  • 15 to 30 days of community service
  • Participation in an alcohol and traffic safety education program

In addition, if First Drunk Driving Conviction: imprisonment (2 to 90 days), fine ($500 to $1,000), license suspension (90 days)(more information: First Offense DUI in New Jersey). The penalties are more severe if the BAC is above .10%

If Second Drunk Driving Conviction within 10 Years: imprisonment (Up to 1 year jail) fine ($500 up to $2,000) license suspension (2 years). (More Information: Second Offense DUI in New Jersey.)

What if you refuse the chemical test? Read about New Jersey implied consent laws.

What other charges?

In addition to driving under the influence, an underage drinker may be charged with any of the following:

  • distributing alcohol to other minors (were there underage drunk passengers?),
  • minor in possession,
  • soliciting alcohol,
  • child endangerment law violations,
  • possession of false identification (was a fake id used to purchase alcohol?), and
  • moving and vehicle maintenance violations (what else did the arresting officer see?).

What happens to insurance?

Some insurance companies may terminate a policy after an underage DUI (while others refuse to renew). Most companies simply raise the cost of the monthly premium by $100 to $200 (sometimes higher) for a higher risk policy. The raise usually stays in place for three to five years. You’ll also probably need to furnish the DMV with an SR-22 certificate to reinstate a license after suspension (as proof of insurability). Most insurance companies furnish this form to the DMV. Check with your insurer to see if it performs this service.

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