Minors could face jail time for illegal alcohol consumption

Liquor licences can only be issued to non-Muslims over age 21 with a residence visa and minimum monthly salary of at least Dh3,000.

Lawyer Hassan Elhais warned about the consequences of underage drinking. Navin Khianey for The National
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ABU DHABI // 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 Mr 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.