Underage Drinking Regulations Get Tightened in Barnegat
An ordinance adopted this week by the Barnegat Township Committee will give police authority to arrest people for underage drinking on private party.
The ordinance had been recommended by DART Coalition of Ocean County, which recently reported that 20 out of 33 county municipalities have such an ordinance in place. Initially, DART stood for Developing Alcohol Responsibility Together, but it has expanded its scope to include drug abuse prevention education.
During a public hearing on the ordinance, resident Maxine Blumernthal noted that minors might drink wine at their home as part of a religious observance. She questioned whether the ordinance would make them subject to arrest, or that police would stop at a house on a whim looking for underage drinkers.
Township Attorney Kevin Starkey said that consuming an alcoholic beverage as part of a religious ritual would be exempt from the ordinance.
“Police are going to use discretion,” said Township Administrator David Breeden. “What we’re trying to concentrate on are places where there have been complaints of loud parties. This ordinance gives the department a tool it did not have before.”
Township Committeewoman Elaine Taylor said her daughter had shown her Facebook videos of minors drinking during a party in their home.
“These are the types of situations this ordinance addresses,” said Taylor. “There’s not going to be a police state. Police aren’t going to start barging into homes looking for underage drinkers.”
Contacted later, DART Coalition Director Robert Goldschlag said he hopes the ordinance will serve as a deterrent to parents who might allow parties where minors will be drinking.
“It used to be that parents figured their children would not get in trouble as long as they hid their car keys,” he said. “But consuming too much alcohol can cause plenty of problems for youngsters.”
In addition, he said minors convicted of underage drinking receive a six-month driver’s license suspension. Those who do not have a license will have a six-month delay before receiving it.
— Eric Englund