Our criminal defense law firm represents people charged with drunk driving in Pennsylvania (DUI) and New Jersey. While we receive a lot of questions from person charged with these offenses in both states, we also receive questions from parents of minors (under 21) charged with drinking while operating a car or motor vehicle in New Jersey. Most of these questions come from Pennsylvania residents, specifically, Philadelphia residents, who are vacationing at the New Jersey shore during the summer
It’s very important to understand that Driving While Intoxicated and Underage Person Operating a Motor Vehicle After Consuming Alcohol are separate offenses in New Jersey. If a minor is convicted of DWI and underage drinking, they face penalties under both statutes. Driving after consuming alcohol is not necessarily drunk driving. In New Jersey, if an underage driver’s BAC is .01 or more, but less than .08, then license suspension is 30-90 days, plus 15-30 days of community service and participation in a program of alcohol education and highway safety. If the BAC is .08 or more, then the underage person is subject to the normal DWI penalties under 39:4-50, plus the penalties under 39:4-50.14.
Here is the actual statute.
N.J. Stat. § 39:4-50.14. Penalties for underage person operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol.
Any person under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages who operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% or more, but less than 0.08%, 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.
Remember that tolerance and impairment are not the same. Even a minor doesn’t feel drunk, they are more than likely over the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle after drinking. A higher alcohol tolerance, however, won’t change your BAC level. It will just alter the way you react. Basically, you won’t feel that drunk but your BAC could likely be over the legal limit. Tolerance and BAC are mutually exclusive!
How Your Brain Reacts to Alcohol
If a person’s body and brain are regularly subjected to alcohol, a change develops within the body to enable a person to adapt better to the presence of alcohol. The average person metabolizes a drink (.6 ounces of ethanol) within ninety minutes after consumption. A person, however, who consumes alcohol on a more regular basis will break down that alcohol more rapidly than a person who rarely drinks. The chemistry within a body’s liver produces enzymes that break down the alcohol.
Your Liver & Intoxication
More frequent consumption of alcohol forces the liver to become more efficient in breaking down the alcohol and therefore drinkers need to drink more alcohol in order to get this same intoxication effect (you need more to actually feel drunk). This behavior doesn’t change a person’s BAC level. In addition to the liver, the brain develops tolerance to alcohol when it is regularly exposed to it. More of a tolerance leads to less for a dulling effect on alertness but again this doesn’t affect one’s BAC level.
So what does affect your BAC level?
- The number of drinks
- How fast you drink
- Gender – females have less water, more fat and therefore a higher BAC on avg
- Bodyweight – more weight = more water in your body = alcohol dilution
- Food – eating slows down alcohol absorption
- Body Type – More body fat = a higher BAC
- Hydration = less hydrated = BAC rises quicker and longer
- Mixers – water and juice slows alcohol absorption while carbonation (soda) speeds it up)
Contact Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in PA & NJ
Please click here to contact our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers. We offer free case reviews and serve the following areas in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Atlantic City, Camden, Cherry Hill, Chester, Conshohocken, Doylestown, Media, Norristown, Philadelphia, Pottstown, Salem, Upper Darby, Upper Merion, Upper Providence, Vineland & Woodbury areas.