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April 06, 2016
Punishments for illegal alcohol consumption can be as strict as a six-month jail term and Dh5,000 fine, regardless of whether the offender is a minor, a lawyer warns.
Hassan Elhais, a legal consultant at Al Rowaad Advocates & Legal Consultancy, reminds residents that liquor licences can only be issued to non-Muslims over the age of 21 with a residence visa and a minimum monthly salary of Dh3,000. Those caught drinking without a valid licence face harsh consequences from UAE authorities.
As per the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law issued in 1972, it is illegal to acquire, drink, supply, sell or offer alcoholic drinks to those without a valid licence, says Dr. Elhais. Article 7 of the law stipulates imprisonment for six months, a fine of Dh5,000 or both.
"This applies to all, any person without a valid alcohol licence, including Muslims and minors, irrespective of whether or not they are Emiratis."
The law does provide some leniency towards minors, however. Courts may pardon the accused person if there is a "mitigating circumstance and a mitigating excuse" in a misdemeanour case, according to Article 101 of Federal Law No. 3 of 1987, he says.
"Mitigating excuses" can include young age and a crime committed for "non-evil incentives", according to Article 96 of the same law, he says.
"Accordingly, if a teenager or minor is found in the possession of, or under the influence of, alcohol, he or she may be pardoned by the court, provided the said minor has not caused any harm to the public, for example, drink driving causing an accident, and brawing." he says.
A new penal code, called the Federal Decree-Law No. 31 of 2021 On the Issuance of the Crimes and Penalties Law, has been issued. Under Article 363 of the New Penal Code, each Emirate has the right to regulate the use, circulation, trading and possession of alcoholic beverages and no punishment may be imposed for drinking, possessing, or trading in alcohol in the cases and locations permitted by applicable legislation.
However, Article 363 of the New Penal Code further clarifies that any person who drinks alcohol in a public place or locations authorised by law, or who causes trouble or public disturbance while in a state of intoxication, will be liable for imprisonment of up to 6 months and/or fines of up to AED 100,000.
Article 363/4 further states that any person who offers alcohol to a person below the age of 21 years or who incites this drinking or buys alcohol to provide it to such person, will be liable for imprisonment and /or fines. The imprisonment could be for up to 1 year and fines not exceeding AED 100,000.