New Jersey Public Intoxication Laws

New Jersey does not criminalize public intoxication. Like many states, New Jersey’s stated policy is to treat (rather than prosecute) people who have alcohol problems.

For more information on public intoxication laws generally, see Public Intoxication Laws and Penalties.

State Law

Even though public intoxication is not a crime in New Jersey, people who are intoxicated and operate a vehicle or other machinery in public can still be prosecuted and convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) or similar crimes.

(N.J. Stat. Ann. § 26:2B-26.)

People who are intoxicated and commit other crimes, such as sexual assault or robbery, can still be convicted and punished for those crimes.

Protective Custody

Under New Jersey’s laws, police officers and emergency medical personnel may take a person who is intoxicated in public into protective custody and bring the person to his or her residence or to a treatment center.

If the person is incapacitated (unconscious, incapable of making rational decisions, in need of serious medical attention, or likely to suffer significant harm), the officer must take the person to a treatment facility.

People who are taken into protective custody are not under arrest but they may be searched. Police may also ask the person to submit to a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test and, if necessary, use force to take a person into custody so long as it is not likely to cause injury.

(N.J. Stat. Ann. § § 26:2B-8, 26:2B-16.)

For example, if a police officer sees a group of people on the street who have clearly been drinking and one of them is so drunk that the person cannot walk or stand up, has slurred speech and is disoriented, the officer would have to take the person to a treatment center. If the other people in the group were not similarly incapacitated, the officer could bring those people to their homes or to a treatment center, or merely send them on their way.

Local Regulation

Local governments in New Jersey, including counties and cities, are not permitted to pass laws criminalizing public intoxication.

(N.J. Stat. Ann. § 26:2B-26.)

Generally, however, local governments are allowed to limit the use and sale of alcohol to certain times, places, and people.

Obtaining Legal Assistance

If you are charged with a crime in New Jersey, you should contact a local criminal defense attorney. An attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.

Talk to a Lawyer

Start here to find criminal defense lawyers near you.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you
DEFEND YOUR RIGHTS

Talk to a Defense attorney

We've helped 95 clients find attorneys today.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you