The Jersey Shore sees millions of visitors every summer. Many are from out of state or other parts of the state, and may not be familiar with New Jersey laws or the local ordinances each town has. For the most part, it is against the law to drink on New Jersey’s beaches, but it is not always clear which law makes this illegal.
If you or a loved one received a municipal court citation in New Jersey for an open container violation or for drinking on the beach, talk to an attorney today. The South Jersey criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych may be able to help you fight open container violations and save you from hefty fines.
New Jersey Open Container and Public Intoxication Laws
In New Jersey, there are no general public intoxication laws. In fact, N.J.S.A. § 26:2B-26 specifically outlaws local city and municipal governments from making public intoxication illegal. This means that, as long as you’re not driving, creating a disturbance, or otherwise causing a problem, you can legally be drunk in public.
New Jersey’s general open container laws only affect open alcohol containers in cars. N.J.S.A. § 39:4-51b makes it illegal for anyone in a car to have an open container of alcohol. This includes recorked or resealed bottles as well as cups, glasses, or open bottles or cans. A container will not trigger a violation if it is recorked and stored in the trunk of your car. Violating this law can lead to a $200 fine, and, upon a second or further violation, an extra $50 fine and 10 days of community service. It is also illegal to drink alcohol in a car, which carries the same punishments, but does not apply to those in the back of a charter bus or limousine.
Aside from these laws, there is nothing in the statewide laws of New Jersey to prevent open containers or drinking in public. However, just because the State of New Jersey has not made it a crime does not mean that local town, city, and municipal governments do not have their own open container policies. In fact, many of the beachside towns to have open container ordinances.
Jersey Shore Local Open Container Rules
Nearly every New Jersey beach makes it illegal to bring open containers – or any alcohol – to the beach. With the exception of some of the beaches at Sandy Hook, you cannot drink on the beach at the Jersey Shore.
Some shore towns are even more strict than others. Avon-by-the-Sea, Bay Head, Brick Township, Island Beach State Park, Seaside Park, and Spring Lake went so far as to have “alcohol checkpoints” at their beach entrances. This means that bags and coolers can be searched to prevent people from bringing alcohol to the beach.
Many long-time beachgoers think they can get around the system. Hundreds of people simply bring beers or mixed drinks to the beach, using red plastic cups or koozies to disguise their alcoholic beverages. If a lifeguard or police officer spots you, they may let it slide. However, if they can smell the alcohol or can see that you have beer bottles, you could still face a citation and have your alcohol confiscated.
If you are under 21, this can even lead to citations for underage drinking. There are serious penalties for underage drinking in New Jersey. Aside from the high fines, you can also have your drivers’ license suspended. Even if you were on the beach and were not planning on driving, you can still have your drivers’ license suspended for drinking underage. If you do not have a license yet, they will delay date at which you become eligible to get a NJ drivers’ license. You may also face penalties in juvenile court.
As there are over a dozen individual towns, it is difficult to track the specific rules and penalties of each town. As an example of a local rule, Ocean City’s open container ordinance allows fines of around $155 for each adult found with an open container. Atlantic City’s laws are incredibly strict, and authorize a fine up to $2,000 and up to 90 days in county jail for a violation of their statute. However, this punishment is the absolute maximum, and an attorney may be able to convince a judge to use a much more reasonable penalty.
Atlantic City Open Container Attorney
If you or your child was charged with an open container violation at the Jersey Shore, talk to one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Depending on the specific local laws, you could face a very high fine. If you are charged with underage drinking alongside your open container violation, you risk high fines and a license suspension. Having an attorney on your side can help get these kinds of charges dropped and help reduce fines to a reasonable amount. For a free consultation on your case, call (609) 616-4956 today.