The Baby DWI vs. the Adult DWI in Wake County, North Carolina

If you’re underage, and stopped by police on a suspicion of driving under the influence, you are likely to be charged with at least two crimes.

The first charge will be “Driving After Consuming Under the Age of 21? also known as a “Baby DWI” (N.C.G.S. 20-138.3).

The second charge will probably be a regular Driving While Impaired (the adult DWI) (N.C.G.S. 20-138.1).

First, you can be charged and convicted of both charges, since the legislature has defined the Baby DWI in such a way that it is not a lesser included offense of the DWI. However, your total punishment may not exceed the punishment available under the adult DWI. This isn’t much help, since very rarely will total punishment get close to the total punishment available under the DWI.

So how do the two charges differ?

First, of course, the baby DWI only applies to people who are under the age of 21. Second, the baby DWI makes it a criminal act to have any impairment of any level if someone is under 21 and driving a vehicle. This is North Carolina’s version of “zero tolerance.”

You can be convicted of the Baby DWI if you blew, say, a .01, even though you weren’t appreciably impaired for the purposes of the adult DWI. The Baby DWI is much stricter from a proof stand-point, permitting no impairment (unless it the substance was a prescribed medicine.)

The punishments differ.

A Baby DWI is punished less harshly: as a Class 2 misdemeanor. In addition, while your driver’s license is revoked upon a charge of a baby DWI, you are eligible for limited driving privileges, provided you are not also convicted of the adult DWI.

An adult DWI is punished according to the standard DWI statute described here.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.