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Underage Drinking

North Carolina takes every alcohol-related offense seriously, but underage drinking violations often result in particularly severe punishments. Under the so-called “zero tolerance” approach to underage drinking, anyone under the age of 21 who possesses or consumes alcohol may be convicted of an underage drinking offense. Additionally, underage drinkers can also be charged with Driving After Consuming, a special type of DWI. This charge arises when an underage driver has ANY alcohol in their system and operates a motor vehicle. Even if they are under the adult legal limit of 0.08% BAC he or she can still be convicted of an underage drinking and driving offense. Moreover, young offenders convicted of drinking offenses often have a tremendous amount at stake. These offenses can permanently tarnish your record and create a major obstacle to education, finding a job, or getting a loan.

The stakes are high when it comes to a criminal record, and, unfortunately, underage drinking violations are all too common. In addition, often the accused faces not only criminal charges, but in the case of students, university sanctions at one of over a dozen college campuses across North Carolina. But the attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC have experience handling a wide variety of underage drinking charges. Contact our office today to begin preparing a powerful defense to ensure your rights are protected.

  • Underage Possession of Alcohol – or Minor in Possession, is a criminal offense because it is unlawful for anyone under the age of 21 to even possess alcohol. Law enforcement officers enjoy wide latitude in requiring anyone suspected of underage drinking to submit to an alcohol screening test, and refusing the test is admissible in court.

  • Purchase of Alcohol by Underage Persons – Underage persons are prohibited from purchasing alcohol. Anyone under the age of 21 who purchases alcohol may be convicted of an underage drinking offense.

  • Using Fake Identification – Fake IDs can land their possessors in serious trouble. In North Carolina, it is illegal to enter or even attempt to enter any establishment where alcohol is sold with the use of false identification. In addition it is illegal to purchase or attempt to purchase alcohol with a fake ID. Fake IDs can lead to a host of other charges, such as forgery or even identity theft. Again, this is not something North Carolina law takes lightly.

  • Underage DWI – Like any DWI, a conviction will permanently scar your record. However, for underage individuals charged with a DWI, he or she faces the additional possibility of losing his or her license without the possibility of a limited driving privilege. This could mean no driving for any reason – not work, school, or personal – for a full year. Furthermore, if you’re underage, even if you blow under a .08% BAC, you can still face conviction. For more information on DWI’s in general, see our DWI Webpage.

  • Providing Alcohol to Underage Persons – North Carolina provides various penalties for those convicted of providing alcohol to an underage person. Depending on whether the alcohol was freely given or sold to an underage person, the law may impose different criminal liability. However, there is always the possibility of fines and loss of driver’s license and potential jail time.


With the exception of an underage DWI, most underage drinking-related charges are Class One Misdemeanor or Class Two Misdemeanors. Class One Misdemeanors carry a maximum of 120 days of incarceration while Class Two Misdemeanors carry a maximum 60 day penalty. Additionally, most underage drinking violations can result in the accused losing his or her driver’s license. However, our attorneys work hard to identify and utilize every possible mitigating factor to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Particularly for first-time offenders, our attorneys can often obtain desirable alternatives to conviction that can arise from skillful negotiations with the prosecution.

If you or someone you love has been charged with any underage drinking violation, don’t hesitate to contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today. The stakes are high and your future may be on the line.


If you’re enrolled at a college or university and have been charged with an underage drinking offense, chances are the institution will have its own disciplinary measures in addition to legal penalties. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC our attorneys are experienced in defending you in both arenas. For more information on typical university policies, visit some select university legal pages listed below.

Belmont Abbey College


Davidson College

Johnson & Wales

Johnson C. Smith University

NC State University

Queen’s College

UNC Chapel Hill

UNC Charlotte

Wake Forest University

Wingate University

Winthrop University