There are some federal laws that govern the manufacture and sale of alcohol throughout the United States – most notably, the minimum purchase age of 21. But beyond this and a few others, the regulation of alcohol is left largely to the states’ discretion. This is because the 21st Amendment, which ended Prohibition, granted powers to the states to regulate alcohol; as a result, each state’s alcohol laws varies in some degree from its neighbors.
New Jersey’s alcohol laws are among the most complex in the nation. They provide for twenty-nine different liquor licenses for manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, transporters, and those who warehouse alcohol. In addition, municipalities are granted wide latitude to pass local ordinances governing alcohol sale and consumption, which is why some towns are ‘dry towns’ and others permit 24-hour alcohol sales.
Liquor licenses and permits are granted by New Jersey’s Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, created in 1933 by the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) law and supervised by the Attorney General. The Division of ABC conducts routine inspections of compliance with ABC law, investigates reports of noncompliance, and fosters public awareness campaigns about the dangers of alcohol, among other duties.
Investigations of violations of the ABC law are carried out by an enforcement unit within the State Police, also overseen by the Attorney General.
Although criminal matters involving alcohol are usually handled by local law enforcement – public intoxication, underage drinking, possession of alcohol by a minor, disorderly conduct – the Division of ABC will often participate in programs in coordination with other government agencies. Such programs include Cops in Shops, which places undercover police officers in retail locations to catch underage drinkers and those who purchase alcohol for them.
Charges for providing alcohol to underage patrons are disorderly persons’ offenses, and may include penalties up to $500 fines. Underage drinking may also include suspension of drivers’ licenses.
For those who need legal representation after being accused of an alcohol-related offense, contact attorney David P. Schroth at 609-882-0041. He has practiced law in New Jersey for over twenty years, and will fight to get you fair treatment under the law.