New Jersey Alcohol Laws: Do You Know Them?

New Jersey alcohol laws may differ from those elsewhere. People need to know the laws. Breaking them can turn out badly. No one should have a criminal record by accident.

              Overview

I.   Minimum Age Requirements
II.  Alcohol Violations
III. Resources
IV.  Seek Good Advice

But it is easy to run afoul of the law. Those of legal age might buy alcohol for those under 21. They may see this as friendly. But it’s illegal. A conviction can cause major harm. It may prevent one from being a teacher, lawyer, law enforcement officer, social worker, etc.

I. Minimum Age Requirements

Young people may want part-time jobs. Many are in hospitality. At what age can they be bartenders? Servers of alcohol? Sellers alcohol for consumption elsewhere?

New Jersey alcohol laws permit adults 18 or older to be bartenders. They may be servers in venues that sell alcohol to drink on-site. And they may be cashiers in venues that sell alcohol to drink elsewhere.

Persons 18 or older may own a liquor license. That is, their business may then sell alcoholic beverages. Thus, they may own a store or restaurant that sells alcohol, but not be able to even taste it.

State of New Jersey alcohol laws permit those of any age under 21 to drink in private locations. And they don’t need to be with a relative to do so. Private location include a house, backyard, hotel room, private room at an unlicensed restaurant, or other area without public access. However, many municipalities prohibit under 21 unless a relative over that age is present.

new jersey alcohol lawsMany parents serve their offspring under 21 in their home, typically with dinner. They do this to demystify alcohol and teach moderation. They think it’s better for youth to learn to drink in the parents’ house instead of a fraternity house.

The use of a false ID to buy alcohol is a criminal act. It is also illegal for those under 21 to drive if they have a BAC over 0.01.

II. Alcohol Violations

Selling Alcohol

It’s illegal to sell or serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21. The penalty is a fine up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months.

New Jersey alcohol laws grant counties and municipalities local option. They have great authority over days and hours of alcohol sales. Some areas have elected to be dry. That is, to prohibit all sales of alcohol.

Dry townships are Delanco, Elk and South Harrison. There are 35 dry municipalities. Among them are Audubon Park, Collingswood, Haddonfield, Haddonfield Heights and Harrison. Also Ocean City, Pemberton, Pitman, Riverton, Wenonah and Wildwood Crest, among others. On the other hand, some towns permit the sale of alcohol 24/7. The best known is Atlantic City.

Grocery stores, convenience stores, and gas stations rarely sell alcoholic beverages. That’s because the state prohibits anyone from owning more than two retail alcohol sales licenses.

Packaged spirits may not be sold before 9 a.m. or after 10 p.m. any day of the week. However, Newark and Jersey City are exceptions. Local option permits further restrictions on hours. Liquor stores may sell beer and wine whenever on-premises sales are permitted.

A  business that serves alcohol to anyone under 21, even unintentionally, is fined.  In addition, the state may suspend or even revoke its alcohol license.

Buying Alcohol

new jersey alcohol lawsIllegal alcohol possession or consumption by those under 21 is punished with a six-month license suspension. A first offense receives a $250 fine. A second offense receives a $350 fine.

Entering businesses that serve alcohol or using a false ID to buy alcohol are both illegal. The penalty is a fine of $500 to $1,000 and license suspension for six months. A judge may also order New Jersey to complete an alcohol education or treatment program.

The penalties for non-New Jersey residents for the above infractions is the same. However, New Jersey doesn’t confiscate the license. Instead, it notifies the offender’s state. That state then imposes the license suspension.

Dry towns can’t forbid possessing or drinking alcohol. However, they may prohibit BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle).

new jersey alcohol lawsBYOB is a common practice across New Jersey. Patrons may bring their own beer or wine to a restaurant that doesn’t have an alcohol license. That is, as long as there is no local ordinance prohibiting it. But BYOB for spirits or mixed drinks is illegal.

Restaurants permitting BYOB may not charge a corkage fee. Nor may they advertise that patrons may bring their own beer or wine.

As indicated earlier, people under 21 may drink alcohol in private locations. And they may do so without a relative 21 or older present. However, they may not drink in public places. That’s places such as a park, beach, or on the street. Nor may they drink in a semi-public places. That’s places such as restaurants or vehicles.

New Jersey alcohol laws don’t prohibit internal possession of alcohol. Therefore the state can’t penalize people under 21 after the fact.

Driving and Alcohol

new jersey alcohol lawsDriving while intoxicated (DWI) is illegal. New Jersey alcohol laws consider driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% to be DWI. For those under 21, it’s with any detectable amount of alcohol.

Virtually all other states set DWI for drivers who are under 21 at 0.02 or higher. The reason they don’t set it at “any detectable amount of alcohol” is simple. First, alcohol breath tests are sometimes erroneous. In fact, they don’t actually test BAC. They estimate it. Learn more at (In)Accuracy of Breathalyzers.

Another reason is endogenous ethanol production. That refers to the fact that everyone of any age naturally produces alcohol in their bodies. A third reason is that many medications contain a high proportion of alcohol. And some foods, such as bread, contain alcohol. Setting the limit at 0.02 reduces the chances of unjustly convicting innocent drivers.

Drivers may be convicted of DWI even when their BAC is below 0.08. Some people have impairment at lower levels. On the other hand, some people with higher BACs are not impaired. However, they may not use that evidence in their defense.

Penalties: Age 21 or Older

All convictions carry these fees and surcharges.

  • Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund $100 surcharge.
  •  License restoration fee of $100 .
  • $100 fee for Intoxicated Driving Program.
  • $75 fee for Safe and Secure Community Program.
  • $50 fee for Violent Crimes Compensation Fund.
  • A fee set by judge for Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.

These are the additional penalties for DWI by drivers ge 21 and older.

First Offense

These are the penalties if the driver’s BAC is between 0.08% and 0.10%.

  • new jersey alcohol lawsImprisonment for up to 30 days.
  • A fine of $250 to $400.
  • License suspension for three months.
  • At least six hours a day for two consecutive days in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.
  • Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years.

If the driver’s BAC is 0.10% or higher, or is under the influence of an illicit drug, these are the penalties.

  • Imprisonment for up to 30 days.
  • A fine of $300 to $500.
  • License suspension for seven months to one year.
  • Detainment for least six hours a day for two consecutive days in an Intoxicated Driver Resource Center
  • Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years.
new jersey alcohol laws

Ignition Interlock Device

An ignition interlock device (IID) prevents a vehicle from starting if it detects alcohol in the driver’s breath.

Drivers with a BAC of 0.15% or higher receive the penalties for a BAC of 0.10 or over. But in addition, they must have an IID on their vehicle. They must pay for its installation, maintenance, and monitoring. The IID must be on the vehicle during the license suspension. And it must remain on it for six months to one year after license restoration.

Second Offense
  • Imprisonment for two to 90 days.
  • A fine of $500 to $1,000.
  • License suspension for two years.
    Detainment for 48 consecutive hours in a regional Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.
  • Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years.
  • An ignition interlock device on vehicle for one to three years after license restoration.
Third Offense
  • new jersey alcohol lawsImprisonment of 180 days.
  • A fine of $1,000.
  • License suspension for ten years.
  • Detainment in an in-patient alcoholism treatment program.
  • Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,500 a year for three years.
  • An ignition interlock device on vehicle for one to three years after license restoration.

A judge may also order the revocation of the vehicle registration.

Penalties: Under Age 21

Persons under 21 driving with any detectable alcohol in their systems violate the zero tolerance law. These are the penalties for doing so.

  • License suspension for 30 to 90 days.
  • Community service for 15 to 30 days.
  • Completion of an alcohol and traffic safety education program.
Driver Rights

new jersey alcohol lawsAll drivers have a U.S. Constitutional right not to submit to a chemical BAC test. However, the state punishes those who use their right. The first use of their right is met with a fine of $300 to $500. Their license is suspended for seven months to one year.

Use of their right on a second occasion brings a fine of $500 to $1,000 fine. The license suspension is for two years. A third occasion is met with a fine of $1,000. This time the license suspension is for ten years.

First Use of Right
  • A fine of $300 to $500.
  • License suspension for seven months to one year.
  • Ignition interlock device for six months to one year after license restoration.
  • Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years.
  • $100 surcharge for the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund.
  • Referral to Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.
Second Use of Right
  • A fine of $1,000.
  • License suspension for two years.
  • Ignition interlock device for one to three years after license restoration.
  • Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years.
  • $100 surcharge for the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund.
  • Referral to Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.
Third Use of Right
  • A fine of $1,000.
  • License suspension for ten years.
  • Ignition interlock device for one to three years after license restoration.
  • Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,500 a year for three years.
  • $100 surcharge for the Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund.
  • Referral to Intoxicated Driver Resource Center.
Field Sobriety Tests

The state punishes drivers for using their right not to submit to chemical BAC tests. However, there is no legal penalty for not taking a field sobriety test.

new jersey alcohol lawsField sobriety tests are notoriously subjective and highly inaccurate. For example, about one-third of completely sober people fail them. That about one in three people with zero BAC (0.00%) fail them

Lawyers strongly urge drivers to never, ever submit to them. They say to politely refuse. And to do so as many times as needed. Officers know many clever ways to talk drivers into submitting. They often falsely insist that the law requires it. No law does. Sometimes they say drivers can prove they’re not intoxicated by taking the test. However, officers don’t consider passing as proof of sobriety.

Discover much more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.

Open Container Law

New Jersey alcohol laws prohibit open containers in the passenger compartment of a vehicle. The penalty for a first offense is a fine of $200. A second conviction leads to a fine of $250 or community service for ten days.

However, drinking alcohol is legal on buses, trains, taxis, limousines, and boats.

Boating and Alcohol

new jersey alcohol lawsNew Jersey alcohol laws prohibit operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs. People are under the influence if their BAC is 0.08% or more. Or if drugs make them incapable of operating a vessel safely.

Vessel owners must also act responsibly and legally. They may not let others operate their vessel if under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Operating under the influence (OUI) is subject to these penalties.

BAC of 0.08% or More but Less than 0.10%.

  • A fine of up to $400.
  • Suspension of boating license for one year.
  • Loss of vehicle license for three months.

BAC of 0.10% or More

  • A fine of up to $500.
  • Suspension of boating license for one year.
  • Loss of vehicle license for seven months to one year.

Multiple convictions lead to imprisonment and loss of boating and vehicle licenses for up to ten years.

III. Resources for New Jersey Alcohol Laws New Jersey alcohol laws

Legislative Information
New Supreme and Appellate Court Opinions
New Attorney General Opinions
Drug Court Program
Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control
New Jersey State Bar Association

IV. Seek Good Advice

New Jersey alcohol laws can change. Their interpretation can change. They can conflict. Making sense of the laws is not easy. Lawyers study law for years.  Do not rely on this or any other site. Or on neighbors. On friends. Colleagues. Or even on family. Smile and thank them. Then ignore their advice.

new jersey alcohol lawsGet information and advice about New Jersey alcohol laws from an expert. That’s a lawyer holding a license in the state.

New Jersey alcohol laws are very complex and vary widely. Therefore,  it’s a good idea to select one in the locality of concern.