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Provisional DWI and Driving After Consumption While Under 21

In today’s age, access to alcohol and drugs for minors is plentiful. Easy access coupled with the glamourous appearance of partying can spell trouble for today’s youth in North Carolina and result in an early introduction to the criminal justice system. North Carolina is a “zero tolerance” state when it comes to underage drinking and driving. That means that if you are underage and are caught driving a motor vehicle while you are impaired by drugs, alcohol, or both, you will be arrested for Provisional DWI or Driving After Consumption While Under 21.

Unlike with an “adult” DWI, to be charged with Provisional DWI or Driving After Consumption, you do not have to blow .08 or higher to be charged and arrested. In some cases, the odor of alcohol alone is enough for the state to secure a conviction. Additionally, the result from a preliminary breath test at the roadside can secure your fate because even though the number is not admissible, the fact that the result was positive or negative for the presence of alcohol will be admissible.

Even if you were to refuse to blow, this does not mean the state will not be able to prove its case against you. If there is no breath or blood result, the state may still choose to prosecute your Provisional DWI or Driving After Consumption While Under 21 charge on the theory of appreciable impairment. The same applies to cases where the state believes your impairment is caused by drugs, whether the drug is illegal or a prescription. What this means is that the state can try to prove that your physical faculties, mental faculties, or both were appreciably (i.e. noticeably) impaired. The key points to evaluate are:

1. Your driving that led to the traffic stop: Was there an accident? Were you weaving? Did you fail to maintain your lane? Did you fail to follow traffic signals? Did you drive the wrong way on the road? Etc.
2. The officer’s observations of your behavior: Did you smell like alcohol or drugs? Did you have slurred speech? Were your motor skills impaired? Did you have trouble keeping your balance? Did you make any admissions? Were your eyes red and glassy? Etc.
3. Your performance on the field sobriety tests: Poor performance on both Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (i.e. One Leg Stand, Walk and Turn, Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus) as well as other field sobriety tests will go a long way in assisting the state in proving its case against you.

Further, if your blood alcohol content is .08 or higher, you may also be charged with an “adult” DWI, in addition to the charges discussed above. If you are charged with an “adult” DWI and convicted, you will be subject to the same sentencing and punishment as those who are over 21 years old.

Punishment for Provisional DWI and Driving After Consumption While Under 21

If you plead guilty or are found guilty at trial of Provisional DWI or Driving After Consumption While Under 21, you will have a Class 2 misdemeanor on your record. In addition to being ordered to community punishment, you face stiff fines and a loss of your driving privilege in North Carolina for twelve months. Depending on your age, you may not be eligible for a limited driving privilege for the twelve-month suspension of your driving privileges.

Underage Drinking Charges in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

Like with underage drinking and driving, North Carolina also takes a “zero tolerance” approach to underage drinking and possession of alcohol while under 21 violations. The unique point about underage possession and/or consumption of alcohol offenses in North Carolina is that both the underage person and adult providing the alcohol, if one is responsible, can be charged. Some of the most common underage drinking violations in North Carolina are:

1. Possession of Alcohol While Under 21: Most commonly charged when police or ALE officers go to bars and clubs to seek out patrons that appear to be underage and drinking. Sometimes, these officers will wait outside of the bar and pull people they suspect to be underage aside and request them to provide a breath sample. A refusal to provide the breath sample is admissible in court. And yes, if you have alcohol in your body that is “possession” under the law in North Carolina.
2. Possession of a Fake ID: It is against the law to use a fake ID to purchase alcohol. Further, depending on the circumstances surrounding the fake ID (i.e. It is someone else’s), you could face additional charges such as identity theft.
3. Providing Alcohol to A Person Under 21
4. Purchase of Alcohol While Under 21

Fighting Your Charges for Underage Drinking and Driving or Underage Possession of Alcohol

In addition to punishment imposed by the court if you plead guilty or are found guilty of an underage drinking offense, the collateral consequences can cause headaches for the rest of your life. Also, depending on your age at the time of the offense, you may not be eligible to have a conviction expunged from your record, which means you’ll be faced with explaining the mistake for the rest of your life. For example, a conviction can make getting a job more difficult, cause issues with finding housing, potentially cause issues with school hearings if you are a student, require disclosure on college applications, and require disclosure on military enlistment applications. Because of the significant impact an underage drinking offense conviction could have today and on your future, it is imperative to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney so that the best defense possible can be mounted against the charges.

The criminal defense lawyers of Randall & Stump, PLLC, have extensive experience defending clients just like you. We also frequently defend college students and work to mitigate the damage by pursuing dismissal or, if necessary, proceeding to trial to prove your innocence. Additionally, for first time offenders, we have the skill and experience to obtain desirable options other than a conviction, after thoughtful negotiations and presenting your case to the assigned prosecutor in court.