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Punishment for Selling Alcohol in UAE

Consuming Alcohol in UAE

Fine for selling alcohol without a license in UAE

The United Arab Emirates has strict laws related to the sale and purchase, possession, and consumption of alcohol. Due to religious sentiments, the sale and consumption of liquor in the UAE is a sensitive topic.

There is strict Alcohol Law in Dubai and other emirates of UAE. As per the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, 1972, any person indulging in such activities without a valid license can be punished legally. However, the laws pertaining to alcoholism, inheritance, divorce, sex before marriage were amended in November 2020 with the objective to make the country more tourist and expat-friendly.

We are going to cover different aspects of alcohol sales and consumption in the UAE and the punishments associated with these as per recent legal changes.

What does the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law, 1972 state?

1. Alcohol License

Neither residents nor visitors in the UAE are allowed to consume, sell or possess liquor without a valid license issued by the official Licensing Authority. All of the below forms of trading or related activities are illegal as per the Law:

  • Exporting
  • Importing
  • Selling
  • Manufacturing
  • Supplying
  • Offering

The bottom line is that anybody interested in carrying out a commercial transaction related to alcohol in the UAE must have a valid permit. Even consumption is barred for people who do not have the necessary license. There are four types of liquor licenses in the UAE. These are:

  • A – This type of license permits importing alcohol.
  • B – This type of license permits selling alcohol to customers/third parties. The activity can take place from a shop or a warehouse.
  • C – This type permits the serving of alcohol only in hotels, restaurants, and clubs in the UAE.
  • D – This license type allows the purchase of alcohol.

In the absence of such a permit, there are legal penalties and punishments. Besides the license, the other applicable conditions for consumption and sale of alcohol in the UAE are:

  • The buyer mandatorily must be 21 years or older.
  • The sale of liquor is permitted only for the personal consumption of the buyer. They cannot resell the liquor.
  • Alcohol consumption should be restricted to the private areas of the buyer or at licensed places.

2. Punishments

People found to indulge in the sale, purchase, or acquiring of liquor without a valid license are liable to be reprimanded as per the Law. The punishment includes:

  • Six months imprisonment
  • 5,000 Dirhams fine.
  • The person can be imprisoned and fined, or either one may apply.
  • The court can take possession of all the materials confiscated.

Many people purchase liquor from licensed liquor shops and then resell the same. As per Circular No. 67 issued by the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi, this is a punishable offense. Offenders are liable to be penalized under Federal Law No. 3, Penal Code, 1987. The penalty in this case is:

  • First-time offenders need to pay 100,000 AED.
  • If the offense is repeated the second time, the penalty doubles. The offender has to pay 200,000 AED for the second offense.
Alcohol and UAE

Selling liquor to underaged individuals (under the age of 21 years) is also a punishable offense. The punishment in this case is:

  • First-time offenders are fined 40,000 AED.
  • On repeating the offense, they are fined 60,000 AED; for the third time around, the penalty is about 80,000 AED.

Smuggling liquor into the UAE or outside is both a punishable offense. In this case, such individuals will have criminal court proceedings initiated against them immediately.

Drivers under the influence of alcohol should not be driving because the UAE has a zero-tolerance policy. As per the Law, the legally permitted alcohol in the blood for a driver is 0.00. Offenders can expect heavy punishment if caught.

  • The driver can get arrested as per Article 59.3. The Law states that drunken driving is a crime.
  • The maximum fine applicable in this case is 20,000 AED.
  • The driver could also get a jail term.
  • Besides, the vehicle can get confiscated for sixty days.
  • Twenty-three black points will be awarded to the driver.

As per the Law, punishment for Muslims is more severe than for non-Muslims; thus, the penalty for the former is maximum vis-à-vis non-Muslims.

3. Prohibitions

There are multiple prohibitory rules about alcohol sales and consumption in the UAE. Anyone found to be disobeying the prohibitions is also likely to be punished.

  • Muslims are prohibited from obtaining any form of alcohol license in the Emirates. It applies to local Emiratis and foreigners. Only non-Muslims are allowed to engage in trading activities or consume liquor.
  • Grocery stores and supermarkets are not authorized to sell alcohol. Restaurants that do not have the necessary license cannot sell or serve liquor to customers.
  • Sharjah is the only Emirate that does not permit the sale or consumption of liquor. Except for the Duty-free stores at the Sharjah International Airport and Sharjah Wanderers Sports Club, no other place in Sharjah can sell alcohol.
  • Alcohol in the UAE is mostly imported. It is because the production of alcohol is barred in the country.
  • The promotion of any kind of liquor is strictly forbidden. Advertising in any mass media or windows displays is completely forbidden.
  • Re-selling alcohol is also prohibited.

In case of any confusion or doubt, you are suggested to consult with a law firm.

Changes to the Law

Changes introduced in 2020

Article 313 of the Federal Decree-Law No. 15 dated 2020 introduced changes to the Law. In November 2020, the UAE government announced major changes to its alcohol policy. Some of the core points are:

  • Consumption of alcohol is no more a crime in the UAE.
  • It means that people can buy and traders can sell alcoholic beverages in designated areas in the country, and they do not require an alcohol license to do so.
  • The new amendment has given each Emirate the right to bring out its own legislation pertaining to alcohol consumption and trade.
  • Muslims, who were earlier not allowed to obtain a license for alcohol sale or consumption, are now allowed to do so.

Changes introduced in 2018

In 2018, the Abu Dhabi government introduced a significant change to the Alcohol Beverage Control Law. It ended the concept of dry days in the UAE. The change mentioned that alcohol could be sold and bought at licensed places, even during religious occasions. Till then, alcohol could not be sold on days like the Islamic New Year, Waqfat Arafa, the birthday of Prophet Mohammed, and so on.

Disclaimer: The provided information is based on our research. We don’t represent any legal entity and don’t take the responsibility of 100% accuracy. The provided information can change if there is any amendment in the law. Before coming to any conclusion, you should consult a lawyer.