Underage Drinking

Like many other states across the nation, North Carolina takes all alcohol-related criminal offenses seriously. Underage drinking, however, often results in the most particularly severe punishments. For one, North Carolina takes a “zero-tolerance” approach, and charged brought in Weddington have no exception to this rule.

North Carolina’s Zero Tolerance

Under this strict approach, anyone who is under the legal drinking age (which is 21 years of age) who is found in possession of or consuming alcohol may be convicted of an underage drinking criminal offense. Beyond the charge, however, underage drinkers in Weddington may also be charged with Driving After Consuming (DAC). DAC is a special type of drinking while intoxicated (DWI) offense. A DAC arises when a North Carolina underage - that is, under the age of 21 - driver is found with any alcohol (or illegal drugs) in his or her system while operating a motor vehicle. This means that even if the underage drinker is found to have a blood alcohol level (BAC) under the adult legal limit of 0.08%, he or she can still face an underage drinking and driving conviction.

The consequences are serious when it comes to a criminal record, and the stakes are even higher when that charge is for underage drinking and driving. A blemish like this on your record can cause major obstacles in several areas of your private life, such as education admissions, finding a job, renting an apartment, or even getting a loan. Unfortunately, underage drinking violations are common - not just in Union County, but across the country. Beyond facing criminal charges from local authorities, an underage drinker may also face university sanctions if he or she is studying at one of more than a dozen college campuses in the state of North Carolina.

Common Underage Drinking Offenses

There are several common underage drinking offenses that you or someone you know may be facing. Some of these include:

  • Underage purchase of alcohol: Anyone who is under the age of 21 and purchases alcohol, which is prohibited under state law, may be convicted of an offense;
  • Underage possession of alcohol: Also referred to as a minor in possession charge, it is against North Carolina law for anyone under the age of 21 to even have alcohol in his or her possession;
  • Underage drinking while intoxicated: Those charged with underage DWI face the possibility of losing their driver’s license - without having the option of limited driving privileges. In other words, the person will not be able to drive at all (not to work, to school, or anywhere else) for a full year. Even if your blood alcohol content is within the legal adult limits of 0.08%, you will still be convicted due to the state’s “zero-tolerance” approach to underage drinking;
  • Using a fake ID: North Carolina law makes it illegal to enter or even attempt to enter any place where alcoholic beverages are sold by using a false identification card. It is also illegal to purchase or try to purchase alcohol with a fake ID. Finally, being found in possession of a fake ID can also result in charges of forgery and even identity theft.
  • Providing alcohol to an underage person: When someone provides alcoholic beverages to an underage person, he or she can be charged with criminal liability depending on whether the alcohol was sold or freely given to an underage person. Moreover, the accused may also face monetary fines, loss of driver’s license, and potential jail time.

North Carolina law enforcement is granted wide authority and latitude to require any underage person suspected of drinking to submit to an alcohol screening test. Notably, refusal to submit to an alcohol screening test is admissible in a court of law.

Penalties for Underage Drinking

Most underage drinking-related charges in Union County, and across North Carolina are Class One or Class Two misdemeanors. The exception to this is an underage DWI. Class One misdemeanors may result in up to 120 days of jail time. Class Two misdemeanors, on the other hand, may result in up to 60 days of jail time. Moreover, most underage drinking violations have the possibility of resulting in the accused losing his or her driver’s license.

Beyond this, if you have been charged with underage drinking it is likely that the educational institution where you currently study will have its own disciplinary procedures that you may also have to face.

Criminal Defense Help

If you or someone you know has been charged with underage drinking, know that you do not have to try to resolve this on your own. Do not leave your future to chance, as the stakes are high and potentially life-altering. The skilled criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC will seek alternatives to conviction - results from skillful negotiations with the prosecution. For those charged with underage drinking offenses in North Carolina, our attorneys have experience handling a wide variety of these charges. Contact our office today to speak with one of our attorneys.