New Jersey has over 30 “dry towns,” but many people, especially out-of-town guests visiting the shore, might not understand what that means.  First, just because a town is “dry” does not mean you cannot drink there.  A dry town just means that the town does not allow the sale of liquor – but different towns still have different rules about BYOB restaurants and other gatherings.  Plus, because these towns have made a specific decision to restrict alcohol, they might have bigger crackdowns on public intoxication, underage drinking, and other alcohol violations.  If you or your child has been charged with alcohol-related offenses, like underage drinking in Ocean City, contact a New Jersey defense attorney.  The experienced criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych have helped hundreds of clients fight charges like these.

Why is Ocean City, NJ a Dry Town?

Most dry towns in New Jersey are that way because of their history.  They were originally founded by religious groups who did not drink alcohol, like Quakers, Methodists, and some Protestants.  Along with other “Blue Laws,” many of these rules still exist today.  For instance, many towns still block the sale of liquor on Sundays.  When Methodist ministers founded Ocean City in 1879, it was even illegal to shop, bathe, or do other activities on Sundays.  In 1881, it became illegal to swim, ride, or open your business on Sunday.

In the 1980’s, the “dry town” law was put to a vote, and voters insisted on keeping the law in place.  Much of this comes from Ocean City’s role as a “family-friendly” town.  Even the Ocean City Municipal Code, in § 4.1-1, says that these liquor laws “are promulgated to maintain the traditional image and character of Ocean City as a family resort community.”

Every time the issue comes up, Ocean City residents vote to keep the laws in place.  Even as recently as 2012, voters elected to continue to block BYOB at Ocean City restaurants.  Residents would rather keep bars and drinking out of their town and off the boardwalk.  Despite the economic boost liquor sales would have for restaurants and hotels in Ocean City, it is still illegal to sell alcohol there.

What is Illegal in a Dry Town?

If you are over 21, you are allowed to have alcohol in a dry town.  There is nothing in the laws that prevents adults from having or drinking alcohol in Ocean City in their own home (or rental home).  Nevertheless, in the spirit of keeping the town “family friendly” and honoring its heritage, police may crack down on other alcohol-related offenses.

Ocean City, NJ, like many towns, has its own municipal code.  Police can write tickets for these violations, in addition to the state law violations.

Ocean City has its own violations for public consumption or possession of alcohol and for underage consumption of alcohol.  The underage drinking law has fines of up to $250 for its first offense, but is also subject to punishments that go along with the State’s underage drinking laws.

Under New Jersey’s state laws, it is illegal for adults to serve or provide liquor to those under the age of 21.  For anyone under 21, it is illegal to consume alcohol.  Both of these laws have fines and penalties associated.

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N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-15 makes it illegal to drink underage.  This is classified as a disorderly persons offense, which means that violators can actually face up to six months in jail and fines up to $1,000.  The law even limits a judge’s options, and sets the absolute minimum fine for this offense at $500.

On top of that, minors who consume alcohol face a six month license suspension.  For people between 17 and 21 who already have their drivers’ license, they will lose their driving privileges for six months, and have their license taken away immediately.  Those who are under 17 face having to wait an extra six months to get their license.  These six-month suspensions stack with any other suspensions you may have now, or could receive in the future.

Adults who provide alcohol to a minor in violation of N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-17 could also face a disorderly persons offense.  That means a maximum of six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.  New Jersey and Ocean City also enforce state laws on drunk driving (DUI/DWI), and other alcohol infractions.

Talk to a New Jersey Defense Attorney about your Alcohol Charges

Even though some of these local ordinance violations result in a fine, their state law counterparts could land you in jail.  Risking huge fines and the possibility of jail time is not an option.  Talk to an experienced defense attorney like those at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych for help with your case, or your child’s case, for alcohol violations in Ocean City.  Call (609) 616-4956 for a free consultation.