Underage Drinking and the Law

It about time for college and high school students to return to class, and with back-to-school comes the risk of parties, peer pressure, and underage drinking. While not every minor will participate in underage alcohol consumption, more than 90% of minors that drink alcohol do so by binge drinking.

underage drinking

Alcohol poisoning and auto fatalities are the worst fears of many parents, and minors consuming and/or possessing alcohol results in severe consequences.

According to a 2013 NC State Report,

  • 43.8% of minors 18-20 drank alcohol within the previous month
  • 24.3% reported binge drinking within the previous month
  • 32% of high schoolers drank alcohol within the last month
  • 4,532 minors found in possession by state law enforcement in a single year

Zero Tolerance

North Carolina has a Zero Tolerance Law when it comes to underage drinking, The following are considered illegal, no matter the situation:

  • Possession of alcohol under the age of 21
  • Consumption of alcohol under the age of 21
  • Driving while intoxicated under the age of 21
  • Having a BAC (blood alcohol content) above 0.0

Good Samaritan Law

The Good Samaritan Law is important for minors to know. North Carolina provides immunity for an underage drinker with alcohol poisoning. This law allows for a “good samaritan” to call 911 and report alcohol poisoning of an underage drinker, and both the caller and the person suffering will not be prosecuted for underage drinking.

In order for this law to apply when seeking medical assistance on behalf of another, the person must have done all of the following:

  • Acted on good faith
  • Used his or her name when contacting the authorities
  • Remained with the individual needing medical assistance until help arrived



If an individual is arrested for drinking under the age of 21, they will receive a misdemeanor with a requirement of community service and court fines.

If the person is under the age of 19, they will receive a Class 1 Misdemeanor, and punishment can include a fine in the discretion of the judge, community service hours, and a $250 fee or jail, plus court costs of $180.

Drinking by a person age 19 or 20 is a Class 3 Misdemeanor for which punishment can include a fine of up to $200, community service hours, and a $250 fee or jail, plus court costs of $180.


If a minor is convicted of a DWI, they are charged with a Class 2 Misdemeanor and receive the following consequences:

  • One-year driver license revocation
  • Limited driving privilege only, if 18, 19, or 20 years old at the time of charge and no prior conviction for this charge. There is a $100 fee to obtain a limited driving privilege.
  • Community service hours and a $250 fee or jail time

In order to have a license reinstated, the individual must obtain a certificate of completion, which involves having a substance abuse assessment and attend alcohol education classes.


It is possible to obtain a deferral for the drinking ticket. In order to qualify, the underage individual must have a clean criminal record. There are many requirements for having the deferral, including admitting guilt, court fines, participation in community service, and completion of alcohol education classes.

At the end of the twelve-month period, if all conditions have been met and the defendant has not been convicted of any other criminal charges, the alcohol charge will be dismissed. Once the charge has been dismissed and entered, it will be eligible for expungement.

What To Do If Your Teen Was Arrested

If your teen was arrested, you need to get in contact with an experienced DWI attorney as soon as possible. Underage arrests are complicated, and a DWI case can be costly. An experienced attorney will be able to help you through you and your child’s case to get the best sentence for their individual situation.

dwi north carolina attorney