Under age alcohol laws in North Carolina govern individuals under 21 years old (the legal drinking age), charged with a Driving While Impaired Offense (DWI) under North Carolina General Statute NCGS 20-138.1 or Underage Driving After Consuming Drugs and/or Alcohol under North Carolina General Statute NCGS 20-138.3.
For the standard Driving While Impaired (DWI) charge, all the factors and elements of the crime are no different. The prosecution still needs to prove that the individual was appreciably impaired at any relevant time after the driving, and the legal limit is still 0.08 to prove appreciable impairment. The fact that the defendant was under 21 does not make him or her appreciably impaired at 0.05, or any other blood alcohol concentration less than 0.08. The burden of proof on the prosecutor is still just as high.
Under North Carolina under age alcohol laws, North Carolina General Statute NCGS 20-138.1, individuals under 21 years of age charged with Driving While Impaired are still subject to the same treatment as those who are of age charged with the same crime. The only difference is that if the defendant is convicted, he or she would not be eligible for a limited driving privilege.
Driving After Consuming Drugs and/or Alcohol While Under 21 years of Age is another crime that people under 21 can be charged with. The elements of this crime are:
What this law basically says is that it is illegal for any underage person to drive after drinking any amount of alcohol or consuming any drugs whatsoever. One will notice that there is no requirement for impairment whatsoever. This is also known as a Zero Per Se Offense. At trial, if the prosecution can prove that the defendant drank any amount of alcohol, even one swig of a beer, he or she will be found guilty provided the other elements of the crime have been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Once again, impairment is irrelevant on this crime. Like NCGS 20-138.1, this offense is also an implied consent offense. A refusal of a chemical analysis will result in automatic suspension of one’s driving privileges. In addition, a refusal can and will be used against the defendant in the court of law and can weigh in on the guilt.
Violating under age alcohol laws and North Carolina General Statute NCGS 20-138.3 is a Class 2 misdemeanor. It is not punishable by the special DWI punishment provisions outlined in the other section of this webpage. A Class 2 misdemeanor is punishable up to 60 days of active jail time depending on the defendant’s prior record level and any aggravating or mitigating factors. The maximum fine for this offense is $1000. A person guilty of this offense will lose his or her driver’s license for one year.
Please note that one may be charged with Driving While Impaired (DWI) and Underage Driving After Consuming Drugs and or Alcohol. In fact, these two offenses are not exclusive to each other so one may be convicted of both offenses although a judge may not punish a defendant beyond the maximum punishment of the standard DWI under NCGS 20-138.1.
Please note that an underage person is NOT eligible for a limited driving privilege if he or she is convicted of the regular Driving While Impaired (DWI) charge, but is eligible for a limited driving privilege if he or she is only convicted under the Driving After Consuming while Underage charge. This makes sense as if an underage person is driving while impaired and shows a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.12, he or she should most likely be punished more severely than an underage person who just has a single beer and registers a 0.01 on the blood alcohol-screening device.
The requirements of a limited driving privilege for the Driving After Consuming Alcohol or Drugs while underage are:
The limitations on the conditional restoration of one’s driver’s license are that the individual have a blood alcohol content restriction of 0.00 until he or she turns 21 and that he or she willingly submit to a chemical test by a requesting law enforcement officer should the officer have reasonable grounds that the alcohol restriction has been violated. A violation of this restriction will result in an additional year of license revocation.
Thus, as one can see, it is much better for a college student under 21 to be charged with Underage Driving after Consuming than it is for a standard Driving While Impaired (DWI) charge. For the Underage Driving after Consuming, the defendant can at least get a limited driving privilege if convicted. If he or she were found guilty of the standard DWI NCGS 20-138.1, he or she would not even be able to get a limited driving privilege.
This Underage Driving After Consuming Alcohol or Drugs charge is often called many different names such as Baby DWI, Underage DWI, Underage Consuming and Driving, etc. The names are often very misleading because they make the offense sound like an underage individual drunk driving, when in reality, this offense carries a lesser punishment than a standard DWI or DUI. This is not to say that an underage person will not be charged with a standard DWI (as he or she most certainly would) when he or she is driving impaired.
For information on under age alcohol laws in North Carolina and to discuss your underage drunk driving circumstances with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney, contact the office of Everett Law Firm, P.A. in Chapel Hill, NC at (919) 942-8002 or toll free at (800) 942-8048. We provide service to many counties across the state, including Alamance, Anson, Caswell, Chatham, Durham, Orange, Person, Richmond, and Wake.