North Carolina has some of the strictest laws for underage drinking, with zero tolerance. Carrying alcohol, even an unopened container, is also an offense for which a minor can be ticketed. The exception is for those employed by someone with a valid liquor license, such as a driver for a company that makes and delivers alcoholic beverages.
The legal age for the purchase and consumption of alcohol is 21, without exception. This includes minors at home with their parents, or at a private party with their parent’s permission.
Although the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08% for adults, any amount of alcohol for anyone under the age of 21 is grounds for a ticket and a possible conviction.
North Carolina has strict penalties for those arrested for underage drinking, including:
- Jail time, up to 120 days
- Loss of driver’s license
- Fines and monetary penalties, from $200 to $500, as well as court costs
- Requirement for community service from one to thirty days
- Requirement of alcohol and/or substance abuse courses
- If the drinking occurred on campus, the university or other academic institution may impose additional penalties
If an individual has a prior criminal record of any kind, the penalties can be even more stringent. The overall costs for such an arrest and conviction can be substantial.
Most underage drinking tickets are considered misdemeanors. If the individual were driving under the influence, the charge would escalate to DWI, with substantially higher consequences.
Aiding & Abetting
While someone under 21 may not be able to purchase alcohol, sometimes friends old enough may purchase it on their behalf. This, too, is a Class 1 misdemeanor, with penalties of:
- Revocation of a driver’s license for one year
- Fines of $500
- 25 hours of community service
- Possible jail sentence
A second conviction of Aiding and Abetting within four years of the first conviction can lead to fines of $1,000 and 150 hours of community service.
Consequences Of Conviction
Even though the ticket is a misdemeanor, a conviction has serious, long-term consequences that can last for many years, including:
- A criminal conviction that appears on every background check for employment
- Limits on types of employment, since most employers perform criminal background checks
- Loss of employment, in some cases
- Limits on student financial aid and less available education
- Loss of public housing and public assistance benefits
- Denial of professional occupational licenses if the crime is directly related to the occupation, such as nurses or pilots
- Limitations on housing, both rental and for purchase
- Possible loss of the right to own a firearm
- Inability to get security clearances for employment
These are in addition to the sanctions imposed by the court.
The UNC School of Government offers this free tool that explains collateral consequences under North Carolina’s law. While it does not offer legal advice, it can give an idea of the type of consequences you could face with a conviction.
Defense For Underage Drinking Charges
A charge of underage drinking is not a minor offense and can bring serious consequences. If you or your child have been charged with underage drinking, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Without legal help, you could be facing serious, long-term consequences.
Dewey P. Brinkley is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Raleigh, NC with a proven track record of defending clients against criminal charges. If you’ve been charged with assault with a deadly weapon, contact him immediately to begin building your defense.