The Criminal Consequences of Underage Drinking and Driving

According to, a 2009 national survey on Drug Use and Health reports that 14.3 percent of teen adolescents had consumed alcohol in the month prior to data collection and 8.9 percent participated in binge drinking.

With the summer in full flight, the chance of underage drinking and driving is high. With school out of session, celebrations and other social activities create environments free of inhibitions.

However, North Carolina follows a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to underage drinking and driving. This means that if one is under age 21, he or she cannot drive after consuming any amount of alcohol. It does not matter how much a person has had to drink or what he or she is doing. If any alcohol has been consumed, this is illegal.

What happens if an underage motorist is stopped and alcohol is detected?

If a motorist is not of the legal drinking age and an officer detects the use of alcohol on the driver, the person could immediately lose his or her driver’s license for a month. Moreover, there is usually a $100 fine for one’s license reinstatement. If an alcohol screening test reads above 0.00 in a routine traffic stop, this is deemed sufficient evidence to convict. Also, if the odor of alcohol is present and the person refuses to take an alcohol screening test, this is still sufficient evidence for a guilty verdict. Refusal to take a chemical analysis will result in an automatic 12-month license suspension.

According to, when a person under the age of 19 consumes alcohol, this will be considered a Class 1 Misdemeanor. The punishment for this crime can include a fine, community service, and a $250 fee. In some situations, offenders are placed behind bars. All of this does not include the court costs, which can be approximately $180. If the offender is a bit older- 19 or 20 – this is considered a Class 3 Misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $200, community service, a $250 fee, or jail time. This does not include court costs.

As one can see, the consequences associated with underage drinking and driving are serious. With increased patrolling by authorities throughout the summer, the number of accusations for this crime will undoubtedly rise. If you or your child has been charged with underage consumption, it may be time to speak with a qualified criminal law attorney in your area. An experienced lawyer can help assess your charges and evaluate your legal options.