Drinking And Driving Under 21 In North Carolina Can Mean Serious Trouble

Zero tolerance. Anyone under the age of 21 who is caught driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol in North Carolina can be arrested and charged with underage DWI, provisional DWI or driving after consumption under 21. If you are asked to take a breath test and refuse to do so, North Carolina has allowed minors to be convicted of underage DWI simply for having the smell of alcohol on them. If you have any trace of illegal drugs in your system or if you blow a .01 (not a .08) you can be arrested and charged with underage impaired driving.

You can be convicted of underage in DWI in North Carolina based on the appearance of being impaired, even without proof that your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is over .01. Signs of impairment may include:

  • Erratic driving that led to the initial traffic stop, such as swerving, weaving in and out of your lane or failing to stop at a stop sign or stop light
  • Failed field sobriety test including the walk-and-turn, the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN or follow my finger test) or one-legged stand
  • Visible signs of impairment such as bloodshot eyes, an inability to stay balanced or slurred speech

If you are under 21 and caught with alcohol or drugs in your system, you will automatically your driver's license for 30 days.

High school and college students facing DWI need an aggressive defense strategy. Parents, if your son or daughter was arrested for underage drunk driving, contact our law firm online today or at 704-251-2501 to schedule a free consultation at the Charlotte law office of Roberts Law Group.

North Carolina's Implied Consent Law And Underage Drinking And Driving

North Carolina's implied consent law also applies to minors. If you are requested to provide a breath sample by law enforcement and refuse to do so, you may lose your driving privileges for up to a year for refusing. This is considered an implied consent offense.

You will receive a notice of the license revocation by mail from the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles. The revocation will become effective 10 days from the date of the notice unless you request a refusal hearing in writing.

Underage Drivers Can Still Be Charged With 'Adult' DWI

The amount of alcohol in your system at the time of your arrest will typically be used to determine what criminal impaired driving charges you will face. If you are under 21 and were caught driving while impaired, you can be charged with underage DWI. In addition, if you gave a breath sample that was .08 or above, you may also face "adult" impaired driving charges and penalties.

The punishment for a DWI conviction with a BAC of .08 or above is the same for those who are under 21 as for those who are 21 or older when arrested.

Punishment For Underage Drinking And Driving In North Carolina

Underage DWI is a Class 2 misdemeanor. Pleading guilty to underage DWI carries the same consequences as being found guilty of the charge. Your punishment may include:

  • 1-30 days of community punishment
  • Up to a $1,000 fine
  • Loss of your driver's license for up to a year

DWI offenders under 18 are not eligible for limited driving privileges. Only those who were convicted of an underage DWI who have no prior criminal history and who were 18, 19 0or 20 at the time of the DWI arrest are eligible for limited driving privileges during the one-year revocation period.

Multiple underage DWIs may result in longer sentences that involve an active jail sentence of up to 45 days. The judge also has the discretion to apply adult sentencing rules to drivers under 21 with more than one DWI conviction.

A DWI Conviction And Your Future

One of the toughest collateral consequences of an underage DWI conviction may be the effect it has on your future. For young adults, including college students charged with drunk driving, a DWI conviction can follow you for life. An underage DWI conviction can only be expunged - or removed from your criminal record - if it was committed before you turned 18. If you are 18 or older, you can only expunge arrests that did not result in a conviction.

Convictions that are not expunged typically must be disclosed on employment applications, college applications, rental applications, student loan applications and even enlistment paperwork to join the military.

An arrest for impaired driving should not be taken lightly by anyone, especially those under the age of 21 and facing charges of driving after consumption under 21. An experienced North Carolina DWI defense lawyer can help you understand what lies ahead if you have been charged with underage DWI or if your son or daughter is facing a driving while impaired as a minor charge. Developing an effective defense strategy to underage drinking charges is important to yours or, for parents, your child's future; do not wait another day to contact an impaired driving defense attorney today.

North Carolina vs. M.W.
Charge: Charge: Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon (4 Counts), First Degree Burglary, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with A Dangerous Weapon
Facing: 12 - 17 years in prison
Result: Dismissed

An incarcerated defendant accused our client of participating in the robbery of a group of youth at a party. We were able to raise doubt as to the credibility of this individual. In the end, the prosecutor dismissed these charges, citing a lack of evidence.