Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious offense in North Carolina. However, the state takes an even stricter stance when the driver is under the legal drinking age of 21.
North Carolina imposes severe penalties on young drivers who violate DWI laws in the hope that the penalties deter underage drinking and driving. Underage drinking is also prohibited in the state, so drivers under 21 caught drunk behind the wheel could face separate charges for that offense.
Zero tolerance for underage drinking and driving
According to state law, it’s illegal for a driver under 21 to operate a vehicle with any amount of alcohol in their system.
Normally, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers 21 and over is 0.08%. But for underage drivers, any BAC above 0.00% can result in a DWI charge.
The consequences for underage DWI
Underage DWI is a Class 2 misdemeanor. On conviction, the young driver faces the following penalties:
- Up to 60 days of active, intermediate or community punishment or jail time. The choice between community service or jail depends on the severity of the offense and the judge’s discretion.
- As much as $1,000 in fines.
- Mandatory alcohol education and assessment programs.
- A one-year license suspension for a conviction. This can be longer depending on the circumstances and any prior offenses.
On top of these punishments, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles can also revoke the underage driver’s license as an added administrative penalty. This revocation will be in addition to any other suspension or revocation.
Education is key to preventing underage DWI incidents. Young drivers must understand the risks associated with drinking and driving, not only for their legal standing but also for their safety and the safety of others on the road.
The consequences of an underage DWI are severe and can affect a young person’s future significantly. If you’re the parent or guardian of an underage driver facing charges, carefully consider your legal options with the help of an experienced attorney.