If you are young and hanging out with friends at Lake Norman or even in someone's backyard, it is possible that alcohol could be present. Though you may know that the law says you are not yet old enough to partake, if you decide to have a drink or two, what are the consequences? You might think that a little drinking, especially if no one gets hurt, is not especially serious. However, the law in North Carolina takes a different and far more serious approach to underage drinking, often resulting in punitive actions against minors found to have possessed or consumed alcohol.
For a bit of background, we should first make clear that North Carolina is what is known as a "zero tolerance" state. What does that mean? It means that unlike in some places, a minor who is found with any alcohol in his or her system can be convicted of an underage drinking offense. This is commonly referred to as the "just a drop" rule. A single drop of alcohol is technically all that it takes to result in a conviction.
You may be wondering what the impact of the "zero tolerance" rule has on the typical blood alcohol concentration limit. Can a young person be charged even if his or her BAC is lower than the normal legal limit of 0.08 percent? Absolutely. The zero tolerance rule means just that, there is no tolerance of underage drinking by law enforcement in Mooresville. That means the 0.08 percent rule does not apply for those under 21. Being found with a BAC of 0.01 is still enough to get charged with an underage drinking offense.
What are some common offenses associated with underage drinking? First and foremost, someone under 21 found in possession of alcohol can be charges simply with possessing the alcohol. This charge is known as "minor in possession" and it is a criminal offense. If the police fail to catch you red-handed does that mean you are safe? Not exactly. Police in Mooresville have a lot of power to pursue underage drinkers and can require anyone they suspect of drinking to submit to an alcohol screening test.
Use of a fake ID is another common criminal issue for underage drinkers. Using a fake ID to gain access to a bar or any other place where alcohol is sold is, by itself, a crime. Same goes with purchasing alcohol with a fake ID. Fake ID charges can quickly mushroom into a number of other criminal infractions, with prosecutors using the fake ID to justify charges for forgery or even identity theft. A prime example that the law in North Carolina does not view underage drinking as a minor offense.
Another possibility is that underage drinkers are charged with underage driving while impaired (DWI). As with adults who are convicted of DWI, minors face a host of consequences. The damage done to your criminal record can have a lasting impact. It can make it significantly more difficult to get and hold down jobs. Young drivers also face serious penalties in the form of raised insurance rates, which will almost always rise precipitously following a DWI conviction and last for years into the future. Young drivers are also impacted due to the loss of their license. Unlike adults, young drivers may not have the option of receiving limited driving privileges, seriously impacting your ability to get to work or school, along with your ability to drive for personal reasons. This restriction of movement limits your freedom in ways that can be hard to imagine until you actually experience it.
In places like Mooresville and many other towns across North Carolina, underage drinking is simply far too common. Often, when an activity is common, people take that to mean it is acceptable and begin to underestimate the consequences associated with the activity. In the case of underage drinking, that can be a serious mistake with lasting consequences. The stakes are far too high, as someone convicted of underage drinking faces the prospect of a criminal record, something that can impact your future in a multitude of ways. If you or someone you know has been charged with underage drinking, reach out to an experienced Mooresville criminal defense attorney right away. The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have been handling these kinds of cases for years and will get to work preparing the best possible defense to ensure your rights are protected. Contact us here.