“Illegal transportation of Alcohol” makes it against the law for someone under 21 to be driving a car with alcohol in it, unless they are with a parent, guardian or spouse who is over the age of 21. If you are driving your friend to the store or even just offer a friend a ride who happens to have alcohol with them, you can be charged. It is a violation level offense, carries a fine of up to $1,000.00, a potential license suspension of 60 days and gets reported on your driving record.
The local police department will often wait in parking lots and look for cars where the purchaser goes into the store and the driver stays in the car. They will run the license plate and cross-check it with UNH student registrations to determine who the driver is and their age. Once the car moves they will make a motor vehicle stop and inquire as to whether there is alcohol in the car. If this has happened to you remember there are often legal issues in even the simplest of cases that lay persons are unfamiliar with. It is important to use all the legal tools available to avoid a public record that can affect you in future employment or current status as a UNH or college student.
If you are under the age of 21 and you get charged with this offense you will be given a bail bond form indicating when you have to go to court. The first court date is usually the arraignment, and not the trial date. An arraignment is a preliminary hearing where the Judge will review the case to make sure the defendant is aware of the charge against him or her and allow them to enter an initial plea. Most people enter a “not guilty” plea at arraignment which preserves all their rights to later have a trial or negotiate a plea bargain. If you plead “guilty” at arraignment the judge will find you guilty and sentence you that day. It is almost impossible to undue a guilty plea. If you plead “not guilty” the court will assign a trial date that is usually a month or two away. (Pleading “not guilty” is like saying “not ready yet” and simply puts off the final decision.) You will have that additional time to decide what to do. It is best to seek legal representation before the arraignment, but you can also plead “not guilty” and contact Criminal Defense Attorney Joanne M. Stella after the arraignment for a free consultation.