Underage DWI Laws in North Carolina

North Carolina has a “zero tolerance” law regarding underage drunk driving. The Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit for drivers under 21 is 0.00. In other words, drivers under 21 with any detectable amount of alcohol in their system can be charged with a DWI in North Carolina.

A conviction of driving after consuming alcohol carries severe penalties that can result in a one-year license revocation, just like a DWI. As a result, if a 19-year-old had only a few sips of beer and blew a .01 BAC on a breathalyzer machine, the teenager could lose their driver’s license for a year. If the underage driver is suspected of being impaired while driving, they can also be charged with a DWI.

Facing Charges for Driving After Consuming Alcohol in North Carolina

“Driving after consuming” is a criminal charge that only applies to those under 21. Prosecutors do not require any actual impairment from the alcohol. Merely consuming any amount of alcohol before driving is enough to convict a person under 21 of driving after consuming. However, the driver will also face a DWI charge if their BAC is .08% or above, which is the legal limit for most driver’s licenses. Driving after consuming is a misdemanor charge for first-time offenders with similar consequences despite DWIs having their own special sentencing guidelines.

What is the Legal Limit for a Minor in North Carolina?

To be convicted of a DWI in North Carolina, a minor must blow a .08% or higher. When alcohol is detected in a driver under 20, the driver can be charged for driving after consuming alcohol. The consequences for driving after consuming can be serious, including revocation for one year, just like a first-time DWI offense. It is essential that you take these charges seriously by contacting an experienced attorney.

Underage DWI Charges in North Carolina

The legal limit for anyone in North Carolina is .08%, regardless of the driver’s age. The critical difference for underage drivers is that they can face additional charges for driving after consuming if they have any detectable alcohol in their system. The charge of driving after consuming alcohol is separate and distinct from a DWI charge. However, it can still result in a driver’s license revocation for a year. Any driver under 21 convicted of a DWI in North Carolina is not eligible for limited driving privileges.

Is Driving After Consuming Alcohol a Misdemeanor in North Carolina?

Driving after consuming alcohol is a Class 2 misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 60 days in jail in North Carolina. First-time offenders rarely face jail time, but it is a possibility based on the judge overseeing your case and the facts of your case. Driving after consuming alcohol is not a lesser included offense for a DWI, meaning prosecutors can charge a defendant with both offenses. However, the district attorney bringing the charges may dismiss the charge for driving after consuming if the defendant agrees to plead guilty to the more serious DWI charge.

Defenses and Options After Driving While Consuming Alcohol

As with any criminal case, law enforcement officers must have a reasonable suspicion to pull a driver over before making an arrest. They must have probable cause to make an arrest. In North Carolina, there is a much lower standard to convict a defendant of driving after consuming alcohol than a DWI since they do not have to prove any alcohol impairment.

Your attorney can pursue deferred prosecution. Deferred prosecution is a program the District Attorney can offer based on circumstances such as a blood alcohol concentration reading of .04% or less. In exchange for alcohol classes, community service, and possible probation, the district attorney can agree to dismiss the charges against you.

Driving After Consuming Alcohol While Under 21 in Prayer of Judgment

A judge can grant a defendant’s prayer for judgment continued or PJC after a guilty verdict or guilty plea. If you have an excellent driving record, obtained an alcohol assessment, completed recommended classes, and there were not any aggravating factors, a judge may decide to grant a prayer of judgment.

Discuss Your Case with a Skilled Attorney

North Carolina has a zero-tolerance law related to DWIs for underage drivers. Any driver under age 21 is not allowed to purchase or possess alcohol. They are not allowed to drink and drive. If you or your loved one is facing charges for driving after consuming or a DWI, the Charlotte criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are here to help. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC to schedule a free case evaluation.