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. Depending on the facts of the case, you can also be charged with Driving While Impaired (DWI) as well. If convicted of underage DWI, the punishments can be very similar to a DWI conviction and may affect your driver’s license and future job prospects. Wake County DWI defense attorney Wiley Nickel has ample experience handling these criminal charges and representing clients accused of underage driving after consuming in Wake County courts.
North Carolina Implied Consent Laws for DWI
If you are stopped by the police for drinking and driving under the age of 21, you are subject to North Carolina’s Implied-Consent Law. 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 driver’s license may be revoked for one year and could be revoked for a longer period of time under certain circumstances. An officer can compel you to be tested after obtaining a valid search warrant for blood or urine.
An underage driver can be tested on site for drinking and driving in North Carolina
The State of North Carolina must prove that the driver has 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 in the driver’s body at the time of the driving. An alcohol screening test (breathalyzer, pbt 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 driver’s body.
Punishment, Driver’s 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 separate offenses.
In addition, if a driver is convicted of this offense, their driver’s 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.
Underage DWI could lead to the loss of your driver’s license.
Lastly, a conviction of driving under the age of 21 after consuming alcohol or drugs can carry serious implications on automobile insurance rates. Under certain circumstances, a driver convicted of this offense may be eligible for a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC) avoiding insurance points and a criminal conviction. For many a PJC would mean that they get to keep driving as well.
Raleigh DWI Attorney Wiley Nickel can help
If you are charged with DWI or underage DWI in Wake County contact The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel for a free consultation. Our office is located in Cary and we can be reached at 919-585-1486.