Driving After Consuming Under the Age of 21 (aka Underage DWI):
In North Carolina, it is against the law for anyone under the age of 21 years old to drive a motor vehicle (a car) on a public street, highway or vehicular area (public parking lot or deck) after consuming any amount of alcohol or other controlled substance such as marijuana (NCGS 20-138.3). Depending on the facts of the case, you can also be charged with Driving While Impaired (DWI) as well. If convicted of underage driving after consuming, the punishments can be very similar to a DWI conviction and may affect your drivers license and future career goals. Wake County underage offense attorney Chris Dozier has ample experience handling these underage criminal charges and representing clients accused of underge driving after consuming.
If you are stopped by the police for drinking and driving underage, you are subject to North Carolina’s Implied-Consent Law (NCGS 20-16.2). Under this law, any person who drives a vehicle on a highway or public vehicular area gives consent to a chemical analysis. Any law enforcement officer who has probable cause to believe that the person stopped has committed an implied-consent offense may obtain a chemical analysis of that person. In addition, you can refuse any test, but your drivers license may be revoked for one year and could be revoked for a longer period of time under certain circumstances, and an officer can compel you to be tested after obtaining a valid search warrant for bodily fluids such as blood or urine.
The State of North Carolina must prove that the driver had consumed alcohol or a controlled substance in order to obtain a conviction for an underage drinking and driving offense. An odor of alcoholic beverage on the breath of the driver is insufficient evidence standing alone to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that alcohol was remaining in the driver’s body at the time of the driving. An alcohol screening test (breathalyzer or intoxilyzer breath test) can be administered to a driver suspected of driving after consuming under the age of 21 and the results of the screening test may be used by a law enforcement officer or a court in determining if alcohol was present in the drivers body.
Punishment, Drivers License Implications & Insurance Points:
The offense of driving after consuming under the age of 21 is a Class 2 misdemeanor, carrying up to 60 days in jail. As stated above, this charge is not a lesser included offense of driving while impaired (DWI) and a driver can be charged with both offenses.
In addition, if a driver is convicted of this offense, their drivers license may be revoked for up to 1 year. Under certain circumstances, if convicted, you can apply for a limited driving privilege during that year suspension so long as you meet the following requirements;
- The driver was 18, 19, or 20 years old on the date of the offense; and
- The driver has not previously been convicted of driving after consuming under 21.
Lastly, a conviction of driving under the age of 21 after consuming alcohol or drugs can carry serious implications on automobile insurance rates. The North Carolina Department of Insurance states that this offense carries with it a 4 SDIP points and a 80% insurance increase. Under certain circumstances, a driver convicted of this statute may be eligible for a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC) in his/her case, avoiding insurance points and a criminal conviction.