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The UAE’s alcohol laws are based on Islamic principles and are designed to protect society from the harmful effects of alcohol use. Federal Law No. 3 of 1987, often known as the Penal Code, is the primary legislation that regulates alcohol use in the UAE. It applies to both Muslims and non-Muslims and is implemented by the UAE police and other authorities. Each emirate has its own set of laws, although being controlled by UAE law. In 2020, the UAE government announced substantial changes to the alcohol laws to promote responsible drinking and lessen the negative effects of alcohol.

Old crimes like drinking alcohol without a license were decriminalized, allowing anyone to consume alcoholic drinks in permitted places without concern about legal repercussions. The amendments were made to ensure that the legislation was clear and to make it simpler for residents to get. The drinking age in the United Arab Emirates has been raised from 18 to 21.

The UAE government has established a new licensing framework that permits authorized alcohol sellers to sell their products on e-commerce platforms, but there are tight rules and restrictions governing the selling of alcohol online. Customers must be at least 21 years old, purchases must be made for personal, not commercial, use, and alcohol must only be drunk in private residences or authorized locations.

To ensure that only authorized businesses may offer alcohol delivery services, the government passed legislation governing these services. Ex-pats no longer need to get a permit to consume alcohol in hotels or to purchase it from retailers but must be at least 21 years old to drink. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is completely unacceptable in the UAE, and not even a single serving of chocolate liqueur is permitted. Penalties are severe, with a minimum of Dhs20,000 (about USD 5,500 or AUD 7,800), and incarceration is almost certainly the result.

The Union Supreme Court has recently clarified the rules around alcohol consumption and possession in the UAE, ruling that the local law of an Emirate shall take precedence over the Federal Criminal Code if this Emirate has jurisdiction and local legislation that forbids the drinking of alcohol.

However, the UAE (a civil law country) has not any notion of precedent that is legally enforceable, so the stance may shift based on further decisions. To prevent any legal problems, it is crucial to be informed of the rules and legislation governing alcohol use in the UAE and to always abide by them. The changes introduced in 2020 are intended to make the legal framework for alcohol sales and use in the UAE stronger and to promote responsible drinking. Hassan Al Riyami Advocates and legal consultants will be pleased to talk with you during a 30-minute free legal consultation session.

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