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Fake IDs & Underage Drinking in NJ


What Happens If You Get Caught with a Fake ID?

Underage teens may obtain and use fake IDs to buy alcohol. However, it is not only illegal to consume alcohol when you are underage, but it is also illegal to possess or use a fake ID. According to N.J.S.A. §2C:21-2.1, it is unlawful to display a false document that is meant to represent a document issued by the government, such as a fake ID, passport, or birth certificate. Possessing a fake ID is considered a fourth-degree indictable offense, which is punishable by 18 months of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000.

N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-1-81 makes it illegal for those under 21 years of age to purchase, consume, or attempt to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages. Those under 21 years of age are not permitted to enter a bar (and certain establishments) or misrepresent their age to obtain alcohol. A violation of this statute is considered a disorderly persons offense, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and 6 months of detainment.

What to Do if You Discover Your Teen Has a Fake ID

Discovering your teen has a fake ID can be very shocking, scary, and/or upsetting. There are serious legal and social consequences of having a fake ID and drinking when you are under 21. If you discover your teenager’s fake ID, here are a few tips on how to navigate the conversation with them.

  • Try not to be accusatory. While you may be angry (and have a right to be), listen first. By not approaching the conversation with anger and accusations, you may be able to learn why they have the ID, if they’ve ever used it, and other important information.
  • Remind them of the potential consequences. Whether they have the ID to engage in underage drinking, get into clubs with friends, or fit in (i.e. everyone else has one), you should highlight the criminal and social consequences of being caught with a fake as well as the dangers of addiction.
  • Discuss why you’re so upset or worried. Remind them that you love them and want what is best for them, which is why you are so disappointed.
  • Set clear boundaries and consequences. Tell them that you will be confiscating and destroying the ID and that they should not try to obtain another one. Then, outline the consequences that you will enforce if you discover another ID.
  • Explain any disciplinary actions you take. To really drive home how serious the legal consequences are, try to connect your punishments (i.e. grounding, no allowance, community service work, etc.) with the penalties for a conviction (i.e. imprisonment, fines, mandatory community service, loss of their license, etc.).

What Are the Penalties for Underage Drinking?

Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-15, it is illegal for anyone under the legal drinking age (21 years old) to purchase alcoholic beverages or cannabis items or to knowingly consume any of the following substances in any school, public place, or motor vehicle:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Cannabis items
  • Marijuana
  • Hashish

First-time offenders will receive a written warning from law enforcement that outlines the offense and includes your name, address, and date of birth. If you are under 18 years old, the written warning will be given to your parents. For second-and third-time offenses, the warning will state that this is the second or subsequent offense and will have information concerning how to access community services that can help them. If parents and/or the offenders fail to use the recommended services, enforcement actions may be taken in court.

Offenders (especially adults between the age of 18 and 21 years old) may also be charged with a disorderly persons offense, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. Their license will be suspended for six months, and they may be required to complete an alcohol education program. If the offender is under 18 years old, they must attend a delinquency hearing where a determination will be made concerning whether they need to complete a residential or non-residential alcohol treatment program. They may also have their license suspended or their eligibility to apply for a license postponed.

Potential Defenses Against Underage Drinking or Fake ID Charges

Your defense attorney can work to get your charges dismissed or reduced. In your defense, they can raise questions concerning:

  • The validity of your arrest. Did the police have probable cause? Did bias or profiling lead to your arrest? Were you made aware of your Miranda rights against self-incriminating?
  • The validity of the search and seizure. Did the police have probable cause or a warrant?
  • The proof of possession. Can the prosecution actually prove that you possessed the fake ID or alcohol?
  • The evidence that implicates you. Is this a case of mistaken identity? If there was confusion at the time of your arrest, you may have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC is equipped to handle juvenile cases, including those involving underage drinking and fake IDs. We can advise you of your best legal options, prepare a solid defense, and work with your best interest in mind. Schedule a free case consultation today via phone (201) 574-7919 or online.

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