According to NC Statute 20-138.3, a minor (under 21 years of age) cannot legally consume, purchase, or possess alcohol in North Carolina. This law also extends to children operating a vehicle in the state, should they drink alcohol or have any traces remaining in their bloodstream.

There are various penalties associated with a violation of the law, whether it is the minor or an adult who assists a minor in alcohol consumption. Here’s what you need to know about the consequences, sentences, and unique exceptions for underage drinking convictions.

Underage DWI laws.

Consuming alcohol and driving as a minor is only one piece of the problem North Carolina faces when it comes to underage drinking. You also have to factor in situations that enable minors to come into contact with alcohol illegally.

Minors may not:

  • Use fraudulent identification – It is illegal to use someone else’s ID to enter a licensed establishment that sells alcohol. Adults are also prohibited from providing their identification to minors to use to purchase alcohol, according to NC Statute 18B-302e&f.
  • Aid other minors – Helping another minor obtain alcohol is forbidden and can result in a Class 2 misdemeanor (up to $1,000 in fines). Any adult who helps minors get alcohol can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor (up to 50 days of community punishment (probation), plus fines).
  • Purchase, possess, or consume at ages 18 to 20 – Being convicted of one of these actions during the designated age range is identified as a Class 3 misdemeanor (up to $200 in fines and possible community punishment).

Punishment underage drinking and driving. 

The offense of driving after consuming under the age of 21 is a misdemeanor that carries up to 60 days in jail. This charge is not a lesser included offense of driving while impaired (DWI), and a driver can be charged with both offenses.

In addition to fines and community service, offenders will also have conviction reports sent to the Division of Motor Vehicles. This can result in revoked driver’s licenses or limited driving privileges depending on the situation.

Lastly, a conviction of driving under the age of 21 after consuming alcohol or drugs can carry severe implications for automobile insurance rates.  The North Carolina Department of Insurance states that this offense carries four points and an 80% insurance increase.

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Underage minor and alcohol exceptions.

There are three exemptions North Carolina acknowledges to the general rule:

  • Minors may possess, haul, or distribute alcohol during employment at an establishment licensed to sell alcohol. The employer must prove that minors handling alcohol under their employment are lawful under North Carolina’s youth employment statutes.
  • Minors may possess and consume alcohol under the supervision of an educational instructor during a culinary program. The course must be licensed, accredited, and a required part of the curriculum to be legal.
  • Minors may participate in the possession or consumption of wine for sacramental, religious purposes in an organized church.

Underage drinking procedures can vary by community in North Carolina, which is why it’s critical to get legal help from an experienced and expert DWI lawyer like Ludlum Law Firm.

Whether you’ve been charged with an underage DWI in Sampson County or convicted of possessing or purchasing alcohol in Duplin County, our DWI attorneys are here to help you get the best possible outcome for your case.

We offer free consultations at our two office locations. Contact Ludlum Law Firm today, so we get started on your case!