What Qualifies as an Underage DWI under New Jersey Law?
In New Jersey, there is an offense for people who are under the age of 21 who operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of a 0.01%. That’s a very low level. It is not quite but almost zero tolerance. Penalties include court costs, a license revocation of 30 to 90 days, and community service for 10 to 30 days. A day of community service is usually six hours. There is also mandatory attendance at the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center for two six-hour sessions or one 12-hour session. There are no fines or administrative surcharges associated with an underage DWI charge. Nor does such an offense enhance a later DWI or breath test refusal. It has limited impact. However, if a person gets charged with a DWI in the future, and a conviction for underage DWI is present, it might negatively impact a prosecutor’s perception and discretion on how they may deal with the future offense.
One confounding problem that can occur is if the officer files a disorderly persons charge for possession of alcohol as a minor or possession of alcohol in a motor vehicle as a minor under New Jersey’s criminal code. Those charges can lead to a special provision of loss of driving privilege for six months. In other states, it could be equivalent to a misdemeanor. If the person is charged with the underage DWI and underage possession of alcohol, it creates a difficult dynamic to negotiate when you get involved with plea bargaining. But, unlike the DWI breath test refusal or marijuana possession charges where plea bargaining is prohibited, you can plea bargain an underage DWI.
What Happens During a DWI Stop and Arrest with a Minor in New Jersey? Can the Police Question and Request a Breath or Blood Test for a Minor Without a Parent Present?
The same rules that apply to adults also apply to minors in New Jersey. However, there is a possible exception. If the driver is 17 years old, the parents should be called. But, in terms of a street encounter, there is very little difference whether the person being investigated for a traffic offense is a minor or an adult. The kind of confidentiality that applies to juvenile delinquency charges, which are basically crimes committed by people under the age of 18, don’t apply to traffic offenses like DWI or operation of a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of a 0.01% or higher while under the age of 21.
In court, while parents are certainly encouraged to appear, judges can proceed even if the parents are not present. Of course, if the parents show up, it does reflect favorably on a young person. It can affect the matter at hand in a positive way in terms of sentencing by persuading the judge to reduce the sentence.
Is It Possible to Have My Minor Child’s DWI Conviction or Charge Set Aside or Removed from His or Her Permanent Record in New Jersey?
The same limitations that apply to adults apply to children. For instance, a disorderly person’s offense under the criminal code can be expunged. But a motor vehicle charge of operating a motor vehicle with the blood alcohol content of 0.01% or higher while under the age of 18 will stay on that person’s driving record forever. The short answer is that the traffic offense cannot be expunged, but charges under the criminal code can.
For more information on Minor DWIs, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (732) 218-9090 today.
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