Anyone under the age of 21 in North Carolina is not of legal age to consume alcohol, but that doesn’t mean that they refrain from drinking. Unfortunately, some underage drinkers not only break the law by imbibing alcohol in the first place – some take it one step further by driving after they’ve ingested alcohol.
You may think that underage drinkers who get behind the wheel face the same consequences as anyone else in North Carolina getting busted for a DUI, but that’s not the case at all. In fact, there are some big differences between how the laws treat those who drink and drive under 21 and those who drink and drive over 21. Read on to find out more about underage DUIs in North Carolina.
Zero Tolerance in North Carolina
The state of North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy for those who drink underage and drive. What that means is: If a person is under the age of 21, they cannot legally operate a vehicle after ingesting any amount of alcohol – the state’s legal limit of 0.08 percent doesn’t enter into this equation.
Any amount of alcohol in the blood makes driving illegal if you are under age 21. If you get caught driving under the influence and under the legal alcohol age, you can be in some serious trouble.
Penalties for Underage DUI
If someone is caught drinking and driving under age 21, then North Carolina reacts with severity. The reasoning is that a zero-tolerance policy with associated penalties helps underage citizens to avoid reckless behavior which would put them at risk of physical harm.
If a person under 21 is caught driving with any amount of alcohol in their system, then they can face these consequences:
The revocation of their driver’s license for up to one year, starting immediately at the time of their arrest
- Community Service
- Costs associated with going to court
Additionally, if someone under 21 refuses a chemical test when they’ve been pulled over, then they will have their license suspended for 12 months automatically. You cannot try to get out of a DUI charge by simply refusing the test.
Other Crimes Associated with Underage Drinking
It’s not just getting behind the wheel that can cause legal problems for underage drinkers. Anyone under the age of 19 who drinks alcohol faces a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by community service and fines. Those who consume alcohol at the age of 19 or 20 can face a Class 3 misdemeanor – which may be penalized by community service, fines of $200, and possible time behind bars.
Defenses to Underage Drinking
Everyone deserves a robust defense, which is why you need to ensure that you have an experienced attorney on your side, especially when facing these charges with far-reaching effects. Remember, this type of charge can go on your permanent criminal record. It can impact your future in ways that you may not anticipate.
Every case is different, but a skilled attorney can look at the circumstances of yours to understand how the law applies. They’ll help you formulate a defense that works best for your situation. Remember: You have rights, and they must be upheld. You also have the right to defend yourself against charges in court – and an attorney will know how to help you do just that.