Motion to Dismiss: De Minimis Application for Underage Gambling

Motion to Dismiss: De Minimis Application for Underage Gambling

Slot-MachinesRecently we appeared in Atlantic County Superior Court and argued a de minimis motion in front of the Honorable Julio Mendez. We were appearing on behalf of an out-of-state client who was charged with underage gambling in the state of New Jersey. We won on our motion, the case was dismissed against our client, and he will be able to continue pursuing an education and career without the burden of a criminal record. This post will explain what Judges consider in making the decision to dismiss an underage gambling case by way of de minimis application.

First, it’s important to understand what a motion to dismiss by de minimis application actually is. The term “de minimis” is latin and translates to “concerning minimal things.” Some would describe it in the context of law as meaning “the law cares not for small things” or “of minimum importance.”  When an attorney files a motion to dismiss by de minimis application with the Superior Court of New Jersey, the attorney is asking the Court to dismiss the charge because it is so minimal.

The attorney is arguing that the alleged conduct is so minimal that it did not cause the harm sought to be prevented by the law and therefore, the charge should be dismissed. De minimis motions are often filed in underage gambling cases because all it takes is one quarter and one slot machine for an underage person to catch a criminal charge. That’s exactly what happened in our most recent underage gambling case.

Our client was a college student from out-of-state who was visiting an Atlantic City casino with his cousins and friends. He was the only person who was under the age of 21 and he was alleged to have spent 50 cents on a slot machine. Shortly after he inserted the money and pressed a button on the machine, he was approached by casino security and asked to provide identification. Upon realizing he was under the age of 21, they took him to a security room to be processed and banned him frcasino chipsom the property for life. Days later, our client received a criminal complaint in the mail.

Underage gambling is taken very seriously in New Jersey, there is no plea bargaining allowed and a conviction will bring $500-$1,000 in fines, a six month driver’s license suspension and it will remain on a criminal record. Many out-of-state residents visiting Atlantic City falsely believe that a NJ driver’s license suspension will not affect their out-of-state license. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as New Jersey will forward the notice of license suspension to the state in which the individual resides. More than likely, their home state will suspend their license as well. If the individual is under the age of 17 and has not yet obtained a driver’s license, the issuance of their driver’s license will be postponed for six months.

As mentioned before, we won on our motion and the case was dismissed. There were a few factors the Judge took into consideration when he sided with us.

The Judge took into consideration:

  1. Our client had no prior criminal record.
  2. He was in school pursuing a college degree and career.
  3. A conviction would bring a criminal record and more than likely be detrimental to our client when it came time to apply for a job.
  4. The casino security confiscated no money, as he only put a few quarters in a slot machine and lost (usually when they catch an underage gambler that person has won money from the casino or is in possession of casino chips that need to be confiscated).
  5. He cooperated, was truthful when asked his age, and he provided his valid out-of-state driver’s license as identification (usually when they catch an underage gambler that person lies about their true age or provides a fake I.D. or does not cooperate with security guards).
  6. He did not cash in any currency for casino chips and was not sitting at a table game in which his actions would affect other gamblers’ money.
  7. He complied with the casino security order of vacating the property and not returning ever (even though he is now of age to gamble, he is never allowed back on that particular casino’s property).
  8. There was no specific victim other than society as a whole.
  9. He was the only individual out of the group of people he was with that was under the age of 21.
  10. That his conduct was “not the type of underage gambling that the law was meant to protect against.”

Overall it is important to fight these cases and to file appropriate motions when the conduct is so minimal or small. The factors provided above do not always work in every person’s favor and often do not apply. Every case is different and a skilled attorney can make the determination of what factors to argue to the judge. Winning on a motion to dismiss by way of de minimis application could be the difference between a young person having the burden of a criminal record and that person being able to pursue careers with a clean criminal record/background check.  If you or someone you know was charged with underage gambling in the state of New Jersey, do not hesitate to contact the law office of Roberts & Teeter today. 732-325-0814

2017 UPDATE: Defendants in Underage Gambling cases in New Jersey have the option as first time offenders to be placed into a Conditional Dismissal Diversion Program. Once entered into the program, the defendant must remain arrest free and fulfill all terms set by the Judge. If the defendant is able to do that, the charges will be dismissed at the end of the twelve month term. In NJ, you are only allowed to enter into a diversion program like this ONCE in your entire life. Before deciding which route to go, consider this:

Prosecutors may encourage you to enter the program prior to you speaking with a skilled attorney. Many times when clients call our office we discuss the de minimis option with them and that seems like a better fit. If we are successful on the motion, the case would be dismissed outright without the client using their one-time diversion program, without paying fines, and without being placed on a year long probationary period. De Minimis is still the way to go in cases involving minimal underage gambling activity. Call us today to discuss your case. 732-325-0814

Written by: Matthew Teeter, Esq.

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