New Jersey Alcohol Laws: Do You Know Them? Be Sure!

This page will help you understand New Jersey alcohol laws and avoid expensive fines or even jail. Not to mention time and embarrassment.

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


              Overview

I.   Minimum Age Laws
II.  More Alcohol Laws
III. Resources
IV. Legal 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. For example, it may prevent one from being a teacher, lawyer, law enforcement officer, social worker, etc.

I. Minimum Age Laws

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? Young people want answers. So here are the facts.

New Jersey alcohol laws permit adults to be bartenders. That is, people age 18 or older. They may also 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 drinking unless a relative over that age is present.

Many parents serve their offspring under 21 in their home, typically with dinner. They do so 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 crime. It is also illegal for those under 21 to drive if they have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over 0.01%.

II. More New Jersey Alcohol Laws

A. 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. Of course, that doesn’t include parents in their own residence.

New Jersey alcohol laws grant counties and municipalities local option. Thus, 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. Of course, 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.

Package stores may not sell spirits before 9 a.m. or after 10 p.m. any day of the week. But local option enables further restrictions on hours. However, Newark and Jersey City are exceptions.

Liquor stores may sell beer and wine whenever on-premises sales are legal.

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.

B. 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 at least $500. But it could be up to $1,000. Also, a license suspension for six months. Additionally, a judge may order the offender to complete an alcohol education or treatment program. Of course, the offender pays the costs.

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. Then that state suspends the license.

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

BYOB 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.

Myth

New Jersey alcohol laws
Standard drinks have equal alcohol.

This distinction is based on an old myth. It’s that spirits are more alcoholic than beer or wine. But standard drinks of each has the same amount of alcohol. Specifically, it’s six-tenths ounce of pure alcohol. So they’re all the same alcohol-wise. In fact they are identical to a breathalyzer.

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

As stated above, 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 is 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 they drink.

C. Driving and Alcohol

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

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

Another reason is the fact that everyone produces alcohol in their bodies 24/7. Including those under 21. A third reason is that many meds contain a high proportion of alcohol. And many foods do as well. For example, all baked goods contain alcohol. Furthermore, the list of foods containing alcohol is very long. So setting the limit at 0.02% reduces the chances of unjustly convicting innocent drivers.

Even when their BAC is below 0.08. courts can convict drivers of DWI. That is because some people suffer impairment at lower levels. On the other hand, some people with higher BACs are not impaired. For example, many alcoholics. However, they may not use that evidence in their defense.

A. Penalties: Age 21 or Older

All convictions carry these fees and surcharges.

  • Drunk Driving Enforcement Fund DDEF $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 (IDRC).

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%.

  • Jail for up to 30 days.
  • A fine of at least $250. But it could be as high as $400.
  • License suspension for three months.
  • At least six hours a day for two consecutive days in an IDRC.
  • Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years.

These are the penalties for driving with BAC of 0.10% or higher. Or for driving under the influence of an illicit drug.

  • Jail for up to 30 days.
  • A fine of at least $300. However, it could be up to $500.
  • License suspension for seven months to one year.
  • Detainment for least six hours a day for two consecutive days in an IDRC.
  • Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years.
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. Of course they must pay the high costs 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

  • Jail 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 IDRC.
  • Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years.
  • An IID on vehicle for one to three years after license restoration.

Third Offense

  • Jail for 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 IID on vehicle for one to three years after license restoration.

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

B. 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 leads to a fine of $300 to $500. And the state suspends their license 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 receives a fine of $1,000. This time the license suspension is for ten years.

First Use of Right

  • A fine of at least $300. Yet it could be as high as $500.
  • License suspension for seven months to one year.
  • IID 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 (DDEF).
  • Referral to Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC).

Second Use of Right

  • A fine of $1,000.
  • License suspension for two years.
  • IID for one to three years after license restoration.
  • Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,000 a year for three years.
  • $100 surcharge for the DDEF.
  • Referral to IRDC.

Third Use of Right

  • A fine of $1,000.
  • License suspension for ten years.
  • IID for one to three years after license restoration.
  • Vehicle insurance surcharge of $1,500 a year for three years.
  • $100 surcharge for the DDEF.
  • Referral to IRDC.

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, 30% of completely sober people fail them. That is, about one in three people with zero BAC (0.00%) fail.

Police 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 their innocence by taking the test. However, police don’t consider passing as proof of sobriety.

Furthermore, drivers don’t need to prove their innocence. To the contrary, the burden of proof is on the state. That is, it must prove drivers guilty.

While investigating, police can and do legally lie. So don’t be a sucker.

Lawyers strongly urge drivers to never, ever submit to a field sobriety test.. They say to politely refuse. And to do so as many times as necessary.

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.

D. 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

 

IV. Advice about Drinking Laws in New Jersey

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 site. Nor any other site. Not on neighbors. Nor on friends. Colleagues. Or even on family. Smile and thank them. Then ignore their advice. After all, it’s worth what you paid for it. That is, not very much.

Get information and advice about New Jersey alcohol laws from an expert. That is 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.

 

By now you know much more about New Jersey alcohol laws than virtually all of its residents. Congratulations!