North Carolina: Underage DUI

The drinking age in North Carolina is 21 and consumption of alcohol by anyone under 21 is illegal with the following exceptions:

  • for religious purposes  – for example, drinking wine with religious ceremony, or
  • for medical purposes  – for example, a physician administering a medical treatment, or
  • for educational purposes  – for example, studying at a culinary school

Although drivers under 21 account for less than 10% of licensed drivers, they account for14% of DUI related fatalities in North Carolina, according to one survey. Because underage drinkers cause a disproportionate number of alcohol-related auto fatalities, the standards are stricter and the penalties may be harsher for those under 21.

More information about North Carolina’s teen driving requirements.

What constitutes driving under the influence?

North Carolina is a zero-tolerance state. If a chemical test determines that a driver under 21 has a blood alcohol content BAC of .01% or higher, the driver can be cited for driving under the influence. (For those 21 or older, the BAC is .08%)

What are the penalties?

If First Drunk Driving Conviction: imprisonment (up to 1 year), fine ($200 to $500), license suspension (60 days)(more information:  First Offense DUI in North Carolina).

If Second Drunk Driving Conviction within 7 Years: imprisonment (Up to 1 year jail) fine ($500 up to $2,000) license suspension (up to 1 year – or higher, if last DUI within 2 years). (More Information:  Second Offense DUI in North Carolina.)

What if you refuse the chemical test? Read about North Carolina implied consent laws.

What other charges?

In addition to driving under the influence, an underage drinker may be charged with any of the following:

  • distributing alcohol to other minors (were there underage drunk passengers?),
  • minor in possession,
  • soliciting alcohol,
  • child endangerment law violations,
  • possession of false identification (was a fake id used to purchase alcohol?), and
  • moving and vehicle maintenance violations (what else did the arresting officer see?).

What happens to insurance?

Some insurance companies may terminate a policy after an underage DUI (while others refuse to renew). Most companies simply raise the cost of the monthly premium by $100 to $200 (sometimes higher) for a higher risk policy. The raise usually stays in place for three to five years. You’ll also probably need to furnish the DMV with an SR-22 certificate to reinstate a license after suspension (as proof of insurability). Most insurance companies furnish this form to the DMV. Check with your insurer to see if it performs this service.

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