Underage DWI in North Carolina


Underage DWI in North Carolina

Driving while impaired, DWI, is a serious offense. North Carolina has strict DWI laws in place that include severe punishments if convicted. While general DWI laws apply to all adults, there are specific laws in place for those who are under the legal drinking age. In North Carolina, the legal drinking age is 21. You must be at least 21 years of age to purchase or consume any type of alcoholic beverage. Underage DWI applies to anyone under the age of 21 who drinks alcohol or takes drugs and drives. Someone under 21 can face serious penalties if found guilty of underage DWI. An experienced criminal defense attorney will help you fight charges in North Carolina.


What is Zero Tolerance?

In North Carolina, the legal drinking limit for drivers age 21 and older is 0.08% BAC. BAC, blood alcohol concentration, is the measurement of alcohol in the bloodstream. The law applies to drivers who are at least the age of 21. For drivers under 21, North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy. This means that any person under the age of 21 can be charged with DWI if they are found to be driving with any amount of alcohol in their system. For example, a driver over the age of 21 will not be charged for a small amount of alcohol in their system, such as 0.01%. However, a person under the age of 21 can be charged with DWI for driving with that same level of BAC.



Penalties for Underage DWI

A first-time underage DWI charge is generally a Class 2 misdemeanor. As such, a conviction of underage DWI may include community punishment and fines. Community punishment may consist of community service, substance abuse education, fines, and more. It is similar to probation and lasts for a period of time during which you must stay out of further trouble. Penalties increase for subsequent underage DWI convictions including the possibility of a jail sentence. A judge also has the discretion to impose the standard adult penalties if they so choose.


Driver’s License Suspension

In addition to fines and other punishments, you will lose your driving privileges if you are convinced of an underage DWI.  Upon your arrest, you will face revocation of your license for 30 days. If you are convicted of underage DWI, you will lose your license for a year. Those who are over the age of 18 may be able to request driving privileges that will enable them to drive to and from work or school during particular hours. If you lose your license, you could also face some increased insurance costs once you get your license back.


Fighting Underage DWI

It is almost always in your best interest to put up a vigorous defense to underage DWI charges. There are many ways to possibly defend the charges depending on the specific circumstances of the event. In some cases, you could challenge how the evidence was obtained or how the results were analyzed. If the initial traffic stop was not completed legally, there could be reasons not to allow the DWI evidence in the case. An experienced defense attorney will review the details of the case and determine the best way to proceed.


If you are facing DWI charges, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help. Please contact us today to get a phone, video or in-person consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.






The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.



driving under the influence (DUI) | Wex | US Law | LII / Legal Information Institute (cornell.edu)



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