In North Carolina, driving while intoxicated (DWI) comes with heavy penalties. North Carolina legislators support some of the strictest DWI punishments in the United States. Depending on one’s blood alcohol content (BAC), driving safety and other aggravating factors, drunk drivers face hefty fines, license suspension and even jail time.

Individuals under the age of 21 will face additional administrative and criminal penalties. A criminal conviction at a young age can prevent a person from finding a job, renting an apartment or even securing a home loan. Understanding the consequences of driving while intoxicated will help those under 21 make smarter decisions.

Additional penalties for those under 21

North Carolina is both an “implied consent” and a “zero tolerance” state. Implied consent means that anyone licensed to operate a motor vehicle in North Carolina automatically consents to a BAC test. Refusing to take one results in a one-year license suspension. Zero tolerance laws oversee the legal limits of BAC:

  • 21 and older: .08% BAC
  • Commercial drivers: .04% BAC
  • Under 21: No legal amount

Those under 21 found with any amount of alcohol in their system will have their licenses immediately revoked for at least 30 days.

North Carolina law makes no exceptions for first-time offenders or those under the legal drinking age. The law will charge those under 21 with the standard misdemeanor charge and a separate underage DWI charge. Underage DWI is a Class 2 misdemeanor under North Carolina law and carries the following penalties:

  • Maximum 60 days in jail
  • Maximum $1,000 fine

If convicted of both a standard DWI and underage DWI, offenders will serve the greater of the two sentences. Judges also reserve the right to impose probation, substance abuse education programming or community service.

Charged with an underage DWI? Consider legal counsel

Those facing a drunk driving charge in North Carolina find more success alongside a lawyer familiar with the Tar Heel State’s DWI laws. An attorney can build a legal defense, work with the courts to avoid jail time and help protect a young person’s future.