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Minor in Possession of Alcohol: What You Need to Know About North Carolina Law

You could face severe penalties if you’re a minor caught with alcohol in North Carolina. Depending on your age and what you were doing with the alcohol, you could be fined, required to attend classes, or even serve jail time.

It’s crucial to know your rights and what defenses are available to you if you face charges of “minor in possession of alcohol.” This blog post will discuss the laws surrounding minors and alcohol in North Carolina and how you can protect yourself from harsh penalties.

What is the Legal Drinking Age in North Carolina?

The legal alcoholic beverage drinking age in North Carolina is 21 years of age. Underage drinking of any kind is illegal in our state.

Other states have laws against alcohol for minors, but North Carolina’s alcohol laws are more stringent than most states. NC penal code doesn’t allow for underage drinking, even if your parents or a legal guardian allow you to consume alcohol.

Whether your parents allow it or not, you can face criminal prosecution for being a minor in possession of alcohol.

Facing Charges for a Minor in Possession of Alcohol

Underage Drinking Possession Charges

You can face minor in possession of alcohol charges if you’re caught with alcohol in your possession. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been drinking it or not.

This includes having open containers of alcohol in your car or on your person in a public place. It also includes possessing unopened containers of alcohol, such as beer cans or liquor bottles.

DWI Charges

You can face charges for minor in possession of alcohol if you’re caught with alcohol in your system while you’re driving. For example, Let’s say a law enforcement officer pulls you over. If they suspect you’ve been consuming alcohol, they can administer a breathalyzer or field sobriety test. When you take the test, you give implied consent for a court of law to use the results.

And if law enforcement finds you have any alcohol in your system, you can face charges of minor in possession of alcohol. 

In addition, you can face DWI charges and license suspension. With a driver’s license suspension, you may need help to make it to classes or a job.  

Law enforcement may also impound your motor vehicle! Even with first convictions, you can face a lifelong criminal record.

College: Attending School & Prohibited Activities

Consequences for underage drinking may vary widely depending on the college you attend and the alcohol involved.

For example, if you are at a private university, the campus officer might see you consuming alcoholic beverages in a fraternity yard and do nothing. However, they may give you a citation for breaking possession laws if you start walking down a public roadway while consuming alcohol.

They could then refer you to an internal school disciplinary board. Alternatively, they might ask you to volunteer at the school, attend counseling, or take future drug testing. 

However, if you are at a public university, it is much more likely that getting caught with a beer could earn you a misdemeanor charge. At a public university, the involvement of town law enforcement brings in the possibility of a criminal conviction.

Before speaking with anyone at your University, contact an attorney to help you understand what is at stake. You don’t want to ignore a citation like this and then receive a letter in the mail stating your driver’s license is suspended!

Because criminal defense attorneys deal with these types of charges daily, they understand what prosecutors look for when considering reducing or dismissing charges. They also usually have experience helping you navigate university administration. 

Working with an attorney to negotiate the reduction or dismissal of charges and handle college administration could result in never missing a beat in your college experience.

Penalties for Minor In Possession of Alcohol in North Carolina

A person under the legal drinking age of 21 caught purchasing, attempting to purchase, or possessing alcohol can face charges with a Class 1 misdemeanor.

A 19 or 20-year-old caught possessing beer or wine can be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor. If found guilty, your could face fines up to $200 and lose your driving privilege.

Your sentence depends on whatever the Court deems fair in your situation. However, penalties may include community service, time in jail, paying fines, and community service.

The Division of Motor Vehicles also revokes your driving privileges if convicted. If you don’t mount a reasoned defense for breaking alcohol possession laws, you can face conviction of possessing alcohol or underage drinking. 

For Adults Who Provide or Sell Alcohol to Minors

So what can happen if you provide alcoholic beverages for underage drinking or for a minor in possession of alcoholic beverages?

For the first offense, if convicted of selling or if you purchase alcohol for someone under 21 years of age, you’ll likely face a fine and community service:

  • $250 fine plus $100 in court costs. Two hundred fifty dollars is not insignificant.
  • Do 25 hours of community service.

In addition to fines and court costs, those convicted of breaking the state alcohol laws may not gain employment at a business with an ABC permit for two years following conviction.

You can also face criminal charges for loaning your ID to someone else to obtain alcohol. Upon conviction, DMV will revoke your driver’s license for letting someone underage use it to buy alcohol. (1)

Second or Subsequent Violation

If convicted of aiding and abetting the sale of or furnishing alcohol to a minor in a second violation (not in the last 4 years), you can face prison time, or the court can order you to:

  • Pay a $500 fine plus court costs
  • Do 25 hours of community service work

If convicted of aiding and abetting the sale of or furnishing alcohol to a minor in a second violation in the last 4 years, you may face prison time, or:

  • Pay a $1,000 fine plus court costs
  • Complete at least 150 hours of community

Defend Against Underage Drinking Possession Charges

There are several defenses available if you’re facing charges of minor in possession of alcohol in North Carolina. 

These criminal defense strategies include:

  • You weren’t actually drinking. If the police can’t prove that you were drinking, your attorney may find defenses using that information.
  • You were drinking in private. If you were drinking in a private residence, you may not face conviction for minor in possession of alcohol.
  • If you were driving and the police didn’t have probable cause to stop you. If the police didn’t have a good reason to stop you, any evidence they found may not be admissible in court.
  • You weren’t read your Miranda rights. If you weren’t read your Miranda rights, the police can’t use anything you said against you in court.
  • Be careful what you say to law enforcement and others for the best defense against your violation. Speaking with friends, family, or fellow inmates about what is happening without your attorney present can also make you look guilty.

Seeking Help for Alcohol Overdose

However, it’s also crucial to note that if you seek medical assistance for an individual experiencing an alcohol-related overdose by contacting 911, an officer of the law, or emergency medical services personnel, you may have a defense in court.

All of the following must be true to find a valid medical defense:

  • You acted in good faith when seeking medical help, upon a reasonable belief that you were the first to call for assistance.
  • You provided your own name to the 911 system or to an officer upon arrival.
  • You did not seek medical assistance during the course of the execution of an arrest warrant, search warrant, or other lawful search.
  • The evidence for prosecution of your possession or consumption violation exists as a result of you seeking medical help for an alcohol-related overdose. (2)

Our Experienced Criminal Defense DWI Attorneys Can Help

Whether it’s your first time arrested or a subsequent violation, find legal help with us at Scharff Law. We can often work with you and the prosecuting attorney to negotiate reduced or dismissed charges. In addition, we can often help someone qualify for a diversion program instead of jail time.

For a complete defense of your charges, our criminal defense lawyers at Scharff fight tirelessly to investigate any rights violations on the part of a law enforcement officer. Contact us today to get started finding your best defense strategy!