Alcohol Crimes in North Carolina
Arrests in Mecklenburg County involving alcohol and underage drinking happen every day, and usually take people by surprise. The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission (ABC Commission) and local police are constantly on the lookout for underage drinking and hand out citations for things like having an open container, possession of alcohol by a person under 21, and consumption of alcohol by a person under 21 without a second thought.
It’s very easy to be charged or cited for the slightest alcohol infraction, and the penalties vary depending on the details. This leaves many people, whether it’s the person charged or their parents, wondering what to do.
The first step to take when dealing with any alcohol-related charge in Charlotte is to consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer, who can evaluate the facts in your case and guide you toward a favorable resolution.
Common North Carolina Alcohol Charges
With more than 35 years of combined legal experience, the criminal defense lawyers at Randall & Stump, PLLC have handled virtually every type of alcohol offense. From underage possession of alcohol, underage consumption of alcohol, using a fake ID to buy alcohol, intoxicated and disruptive (sometimes called drunk and disorderly), underage DWI, DWI, and selling alcohol to minors, we know how the other side prosecutes these cases and what it takes to defend the charges. Most importantly, we can identify flaws, fight them in court when necessary, and work to get alcohol charges reduced, withdrawn, or dismissed.
Our attorneys regularly assist clients charged with:
- Sale of Alcohol to a Person Under 21 – 18B-302(a) – Makes it illegal for bars, restaurants, and stores to sell alcohol (beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks, etc.) to anyone under 21. This is punished as a Class 2 Misdemeanor if the person selling the alcohol is under 21 AND a Class 1 Misdemeanor if the person selling the alcohol is over 21.
- Giving Alcohol to a Person Under 21 – Under 18B-302(a1), it is also illegal for anyone to give alcohol (beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks, etc.) to anyone under 21. This is punished as a Class 2 Misdemeanor if the person providing the alcohol is under 21 AND a Class 1 Misdemeanor if they are over 21.
In addition, under 18-302(g)(4), if a person is convicted of giving alcohol to an underage person, the conviction WILL BE reported to the North Carolina DMV, who is required to revoke their driver’s license for 12 months.
- Purchase, Possession or Consumption of Alcohol by a Person Under 21 – 18B-302(b) – Makes it illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase, possess, or consume alcohol. Punished as a Class 1 Misdemeanor if the person is 18 or younger AND as a Class 3 Misdemeanor if the person is 19 or 20 years old.
- Using a False ID to Purchase Alcohol – 18-302(g)(3) – If an underage person purchased or attempted to purchase alcohol and used a fake or altered driver’s license, fake or altered ID, a driver’s license or ID issued to another person, or any form of identification that fraudulently indicates the person is eligible to buy alcohol, the conviction WILL BE reported to the North Carolina DMV and subjected to a 12-month license suspension.
Additionally, if someone allows an underage person to use their ID to unlawfully purchase, possess, and/or consume alcohol, or attempt to purchase, possess, and/or consume alcohol, their conviction WILL ALSO result in a 12-month suspension.
- Drunk & Disorderly – 14-444 – In North Carolina , it is illegal to be in a public place while intoxicated and disruptive by blocking or otherwise interfering with traffic, blocking or otherwise preventing or interfering with access to a sidewalk or entrance to a building, grabbing, shoving, pushing or fighting, cursing or shouting at or otherwise rudely insulting others, or begging for money or other property. Drunk and disorderly is punished as a Class 3 misdemeanor.
- Underage DWI – 20-138.3 – It is unlawful for a person under than 21 years old to drive a motor vehicle while consuming or after consuming any alcohol and/or drug. An underage DWI is a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by possible time in custody, community service, fines, and drivers’ license suspension.
Probable Cause for Breath Tests
If an officer has probable cause to believe a person under 21 has consumed alcohol, they can request that the person submit to an alcohol screening test (breath test) and the result is admissible in court. No search warrant is needed. Further, if the person refuses to submit to the test, the refusal is admissible in court as evidence of guilt.
Consequences of an Alcohol Conviction
Most alcohol charges in North Carolina are classified as misdemeanors, with its own range of potential penalties. Depending on your prior record and the facts involved, you face the following time in custody:
- Class A1 Misdemeanor – One-150 days
- Class 1 Misdemeanor – One-120 days
- Class 2 Misdemeanor – One-60 days
- Class 3 Misdemeanor – One-20 days
It is important to note that not all misdemeanor convictions result in active time in jail. In some cases, a sentence will only consist of community service, probation, and/or fines.
In addition to the legal penalties, there are other long-lasting consequences to living with a misdemeanor alcohol-related conviction. Not least among them is a permanent mark on your criminal record, which will influence every subsequent job application, college application, financial aid application, and background check. Some other consequences include:
- Long periods of probation
- Mandatory substance abuse treatment
- Continuous Alcohol Monitoring
- Drivers’ License Suspension
- Civil liability for any damages or injuries
Defense Options, Alcohol Diversion Programs & Treatment
For a young person charged with underage possession or someone facing their first alcohol-related offense, it can feel like a conviction is guaranteed. So why fight it and make things harder? But when your entire life is ahead of you, that is exactly when you should hire an experience criminal defense lawyer to defend your future.
An experienced alcohol crimes attorney can evaluate your case and identify opportunities to improve your defense. Depending on the circumstances, your attorney may be able to point to mistakes or oversights by the police investigating your case. If evidence was collected improperly, you may be able to have the charges dismissed or prevail at trial.
In addition, you may be eligible for certain diversion options available to first time offenders, which may drastically reduce the potential penalties or allow for a future expungement. But without a skilled criminal defense attorney negotiating on your behalf, you may end up with an overly harsh punishment and conviction.
There are also instances in which people are struggling with substance abuse issues that lead to criminal charges. In these cases, a knowledgeable attorney may be able to facilitate an agreement based on entering a treatment facility in lieu of pursuing formal criminal charges.
Some resources in Charlotte for people dealing with alcohol issues include:
- Absolute Recovery
- Dilworth Center
- The Blanchard Institute
- Charlotte AA Intergroup
- Anuvia Prevention & Recovery
- Choices for Recovery
Can Alcohol Charges be Expunged?
In many situations, a misdemeanor alcohol conviction can be expunged, however, there are a number of factors that must be considered to determine eligibility.
Under NCGS §15A-145, you may seek an expungement for misdemeanor convictions before you turned 18. You can also seek an expungement for possession of alcohol prior to turning 21. For these cases, you must wait two years from the date of the conviction or when you completed your sentence before you can petition for expungement.
The Importance of a Defense Lawyer
No one expects to be arrested or cited for a crime, especially an offense related to alcohol. But it’s important to deal with these situations correctly, and as soon as possible because if your case is not handled properly, the consequences are real and long-lasting.
For example, by handling an experienced criminal defense lawyer, a deal may be worked out, which results in a dismissal of your charges. In addition to keeping your criminal record free of a conviction, you would immediately become eligible to have the charge itself removed from your record by filing an expungement. If granted, the expungement removes the charge from your record, as if it never happened.
Whether you are a young person just starting out or an adult with a livelihood to protect, if you are charged with an alcohol crime in Charlotte or anywhere in Mecklenburg County, don’t take an unnecessary risk by going it alone. Trust an experienced and successful criminal defense with Randall & Stump, PLLC.
We have a long track record of helping people in situations a lot like yours and are happy to speak with you about your options.