What Should I Do if I Was Charged With Underage Drinking in NC?
On behalf of Randall & Stump, PLLC in Juvenile Crimes on Sunday, February 14, 2021
As a young adult, particularly when you are in college, it’s hard to abstain from drinking. It is frustrating to be the 19-year-old or 20-year-old surrounded by 21-year-olds who can order beer, wine, or fancy cocktails. As a teen, you might see your peers drinking and want to join in.
Unfortunately for many, giving in to the temptation leads them to finding themselves on the wrong side of the law why our criminal defense lawyers at Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys routinely represent teens and young adults ticketed for underage drinking in North Carolina at:
- Night clubs
- Sporting events
- College parties
- New Year’s Eve parties
Officers can and will stop you if they believe you’ve been drinking and appear to be underage. How can an officer tell you have been drinking? A few ways. The officer might see you holding an alcoholic drink, like a beer bottle. Or you might be holding a container that usually has alcohol, like a red solo cup outside a fraternity house. Or you might be showing signs of impairment, which leads the officer to believe you have been drinking, despite not having a drink in your hand at that moment in time.
The officer might ask you to blow into a breathalyzer. You could decline, but you probably are not sure of your rights when the police stop you. You have probably been taught to listen to authority, so you blow into the device. If it shows a BAC of 0.01 or higher, the officer will charge you with some form of underage drinking offense, depending on whether you are caught in the act, or are believed to have previously consumed alcohol, outside of the officer’s presence.
The third way the cops can charge you for underage drinking is if you admit to it. Even if the officers don’t see you holding or consuming an alcoholic beverage, you might tell them. It is a common mistake for young people to make. You think you must answer the officer’s questions honestly instead of saying you’d prefer not to answer any questions.
Underage Drinking Charges in North Carolina
In North Carolina, it is illegal for anyone under 21-years-old to drink an alcoholic beverage. It is also illegal for any person or business to give or sell alcohol to someone under 21. North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to underage drinking and is something the police don’t ignore.
If you are 19-years-old or 20-years-old, you’ll face a Class 3 misdemeanor. The penalty is between one and 10 days of community punishment – if you have no prior convictions – and fines up to $200. With the help of a skilled defense attorney, you can avoid jail time. Instead, you might need to complete community service and complete a period of probation.
If this is not your first time in trouble with the law, expect different consequences. A judge is more likely to issue a harsher sentence, even including to jail time, if this is a second or subsequent charge.
What To Do Now: Call a Lawyer
You have gotten in trouble for underage drinking, now what? The best thing to do is call a criminal defense lawyer experienced in handling underage drinking charges.
Your first thought might be that you do not have any good options. Your parents might tell you to plead guilty and pay the fine, but that is not the way to go. Pleading guilty will give you a permanent criminal record, which will – not can – have a long-term impact on your life. The collateral consequences often end up being worse than the criminal penalty. Hiring a lawyer is the best way to avoid a conviction or, at the very least, mitigate the consequences of an underage drinking conviction.
Defending Against Underage Drinking Charges
When we represent you, we talk with you about what happened. We go over every detail, including what the officers said and did. Though you are young, you have the same constitutional rights as an adult. If we find any evidence an officer violated one of those rights, we will use it to limit the evidence or in our efforts to get the case dismissed.
We also take the time to collect evidence of your good character. It helps to show the judge you are a good student. Maybe you work hard at a part-time job. Maybe you volunteer or take an active role in caring for younger siblings. It is essential to make the court see you as a whole person.
Be Mindful About Your Behavior During Your Case
The last thing you want to do is get in trouble a second time while your underage drinking case is pending. No matter how much you want to carry on with your normal life, now is the time to stay home. Avoid parties or events where alcohol is served. If you go somewhere and you see other friends are drinking underage, get home safely immediately.
Call Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys
Our North Carolina criminal attorneys have years of experience handling underage and juvenile offenses. We know how to handle your situation. Sometimes, meaningful negotiations with the prosecutor are all it takes. Other times, we prepare a vigorous defense for at trial. Whatever it takes, we fight for the best possible outcome.