Under NJ law it is unlawful for people under age 21 to consume or possess alcohol in public areas. In June of 2000 the state legislature passed a law giving municipalities the authority to enact an ordinance making it unlawful for persons under age 21 to possess and consume alcohol on private property. In June of 2007, Ridgewood’s Village Council approved the ordinance. Ridgewood was the 53rd town in Bergen County to adopt this ordinance. All of the surrounding towns have adopted this ordinance.
Glen Rock Ordinance # 1373 adopted on 5/23/01
HoHoKus Ordinance # 871 adopted on 4/22/03
Midland Park Ordinance # 09-02 adopted on 6/13/02
Paramus Ordinance # 00-26 adopted on 9/26/00
Waldwick Ordinance # 23-00 adopted on 12/12/00
Wyckoff Ordinance# 1521 adopted on 2/8/06
The police authority is unchanged. The police will respond to a complaint, or if an officer observes that underage drinking is taking place the officer may enter on to private property. If the police see probable cause, such as crime being committed or a situation involving a medical safety issue, they act. The police cannot just knock at random doors seeking out underage drinking.
The police are still governed by our state and federal constitutions along with the legal exceptions to warrantless entries of residents’ properties. Each situation is fact specific so providing a generalized response is difficult. Police routinely enter onto residential property for community care taking and emergency aid functions which are recognized exceptions to the constitutional warrant requirements. Each case is evaluated on the totality of the circumstances.
This ordinance holds all underage drinkers responsible for their actions, not just the individual hosting the party. It sends a clear, consistent message to our youth that underage drinking laws will be enforced.
The Municipal Alliance committee, the middle school principals, the high school principal, and the police supported passage of the ordinance and went before the Village Council in the spring of 2007 and asked for its adoption. The Municipal Alliance sponsored a public discussion of the ordinance at a News You Can Use evening on May 2, 2007. Over seventy-five community members attended the meeting to learn about the ordinance.