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Under 21 DWI and Underage Zero Tolerance Policy in North Carolina

The legal drinking age in North Carolina is 21. That means that it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol in our state. Unfortunately, underage drinking does happen, and sometimes it occurs before a young driver gets behind the wheel. In order to curb prevent this dangerous behavior, legislators have enacted a zero tolerance policy for underage drivers.

Zero Tolerance: It’s In the Name

For North Carolina drivers who are aged 21 and over, the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration is 0.08%. For drivers who hold commercial drivers licenses, or CDLs, the limit is 0.04%. For drivers under the legal drinking age of 21, the limit is 0.

If an underage driver is stopped on suspicion of drunk driving and is found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.01% or higher, he or she will be arrested and charged with a DWI. Similarly, if an underage driver is found to be under the influence of any drug that is not prescribed to him or her, a DWI arrest will be made.

Punishment for Underage DWI

North Carolina’s notoriously strict DWI punishments for adult offenders extend to underage motorists as well. An underage DWI is considered a Class 2 misdemeanor in our state, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 30 days of community punishment. Community punishment is similar to probation and may also entail restitution, fines, substance abuse treatment and community service.

Second and subsequent underage DWIs can be punished by either community, intermediate or active punishment for up to 45 days at the discretion of the court. Intermediate punishment includes supervised probation, plus one of the following: a stay at a residential program, electronic house arrest, participation in a day reporting center, special probation or drug treatment court. An active punishment will include time behind bars. A sentence over 90 days will be served in a State prison; less than 90 days will be served in a county jail.

It is important to note that a judge has every right to sentence an underage driver with multiple DWIs using the sentencing structure imposed on adults.

Underage Loss of License

Aside from the penalties mentioned above, an underage DWI conviction will also result in a loss of license. At the time of your arrest, your license will be immediately revoked for 30 days. If you are convicted, your will lose your license for one year. If you are over 18 with no prior DWIs, you may appeal for limited driving privileges.

An underage DWI is a very serious offense in the state of North Carolina. If you or a loved one is facing this serious charge, do not hesitate to contact a local DWI defense lawyer today.