DWI offenses involve many components and age is no exception. North Carolina laws have always implied a “zero tolerance” policy regarding underage drinking and the legislature enacted stricter regulations in 1999. There is an unquestionable presence of underage drinking, especially with so many colleges in the area, and as a result many DWI’s involve those that have yet to turn 21.
Underage drinkers are one of the highest contributors to DWI accident fatalities in North Carolina and therefore are subject to harsh penalties. Here are a few things to know if you or your underage child may have been involved in a DWI case in North Carolina: under Under N.C.G.S. § 20-138.3, any amount of alcohol (BAC <.01) may warrant an arrest for an underage driver in NC. Charges may be either a provisional or “baby” DWI if the BAC was under 0.08 or a regular DWI charge if the BAC is .08 or higher. The severity of underage DWI sentencing is based on upon various degrees of the offense. Even if charged with the lowest degree of offense, a level five, a sentence of 60 days in jail can be imposed, although that would be highly unusual. A level one conviction could involve up to two years in jail, fines, and loss of driving privileges.
Seeking counsel is crucial as DWI cases involving an underage defendant may have longstanding implications on yourself or your loved one. An underage DWI charge can create a permanent criminal record. Potential implications on the record of an underage defendant can include applying to college, school financial aid, and employment. A seasoned attorney will be able to address reducing or eliminating fees, license suspension, criminal record, and jail time. If you or a family member has been charged with an underage DWI in North Carolina, call an experienced DWI attorney at The Chetson Firm for a free consultation.