While there are situations in which a simple mistake won’t have a significant impact on your son or daughter’s life, the consequences of underage drinking can be profound and long-lasting. Even the slightest scent of alcohol can lead to their arrest, and if your child is behind the wheel at the time, North Carolina is not forgiving if those under the age of 21 have violated the laws that govern DWI (driving while impaired) in the state. Punishment for a conviction may include fines and a suspension of their driver’s license, but they’ll also have a permanent criminal record that could affect their future schooling and career opportunities. When your son or daughter’s future is at stake, you need to reach out a skilled Charlotte underage drinking attorney to protect their rights.
At Randall & Stump, PLLC, we understand that getting arrested for underage drinking may seem like a hopeless situation for some and not a big deal for others. However, there are options other than pleading guilty. A Charlotte juvenile lawyer from our firm will explore every potential defense and work to obtain the best possible outcome. We have years of experience defending clients in Charlotte and throughout Mecklenburg County, so we’re prepared to take on your child’s case.
North Carolina is Tough on Underage Drinking
North Carolina laws on the sale, possession, and consumption of alcohol include multiple prohibitions regarding anyone under 21-years-old, which is the legal drinking age in the state. Alcohol on your breath, an unopened container, bloodshot eyes, or slurred speech can give a police officer probable cause to issue an underage drinking ticket. Since North Carolina is a zero tolerance state, your son or daughter faces arrest if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .01 percent or higher.
There are three notable exceptions to the statute regarding underage drinking charges, such as:
- Consumption and possession of alcohol under 21 are allowed when it takes place in an organized church in connection with a religious rite.
- An individual under 21 may possess, transport, and distribute alcohol for job-related purposes when the employer is a properly licensed establishment. Consumption is still prohibited.
The law is even harsher on underage drinking and driving. If your son or daughter is arrested for operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs, they could face charges for provisional DWI or driving after consumption while under 21, which some call a “baby DWI”. While often called a “baby DWI,” do not let the term fool you into thinking the charge is something taken lightly by prosecutors or judges.
Other Underage Alcohol Laws
In addition to underage drinking laws on sale, possession, and consumption, there are laws that make it a criminal offense to possess and/or use a fake ID to purchase alcohol. North Carolina prohibits use or possession of fake ID to buy alcohol or to enter a tavern for purposes of inducing the service of alcohol. This offense is considered a class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted of the crime, your child who is under 21 faces the following penalties:
- One to 120 days of community, intermediate, or active punishment
- A permanent criminal record
- Consequences to their personal and professional lives
In addition to fake ID charges, one can be charged with identity theft if they used someone else’s information in connection with an alcohol-related transaction.
Penalties for Underage Drinking
If your son or daughter, who is under 21, is convicted of underage drinking charge in Charlotte, they face Class 2 misdemeanor charges. As a result, they could face the following:
- One to 60 days of community, intermediate, or active punishment
- A mark on their criminal record
- Collateral consequences such as difficulty finding and maintaining employment, financial aid issues for school, and more
The record of their conviction will also be forwarded to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, which can create even more issues. Regardless of whether the underage drinking incident involved driving, they face the possibility of a revocation of their driver’s license. Additionally, if they’re issued a drinking ticket in college as a student, they could face disciplinary issues or even expulsion depending on the rules of the institution.
Defenses for an Underage Drinking Ticket
It’s tempting to plead guilty to underage drinking or fake ID charges, especially since your son or daughter may only face probation and fines. However, the additional consequences go above and beyond any criminal penalties. They put their future at risk if they don’t take advantage of every opportunity to present a defense.
A Charlotte underage drinking lawyer can assist with your son or daughter’s situation by attacking any weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case. A person of any age has constitutional rights, and any violation of their rights can lead to evidence being tossed out of court. An attorney knows how to get a drinking ticket dropped by presenting arguments regarding lack of probable cause, unlawful search and seizure, or even by shedding light on the good character of your child and the mitigating circumstances related to their charge. In addition, your son or daughter may have a defense if their situation falls into any of the three exceptions mentioned above.
You should also keep in mind that there are options other than a conviction when the evidence is not in your favor. If your son or daughter is a first-time offender, an underage drinking attorney may be able to avoid a conviction through meaningful, positive negotiations with the prosecutor. It’s possible to keep the underage drinking conviction off their record, though fines and probation may still apply.