In North Carolina, one has to be at least 21 years old to purchase, possess or consume alcohol. The exceptions to this law are that consumption may be allowed for younger individuals for religious purposes, or if it is done in the privacy of one’s own home. Underage drinking and driving, in particular, is considered a serious offense, thanks to the state’s zero-tolerance laws. Those under the age of 21 who are convicted for driving under the influence of alcohol may face significant consequences.

Drinking and driving is something everyone should avoid, no matter their age, but it is permitted up to a certain point. Those over the age of 21 can operate their vehicles as long as they have blood-alcohol concentration levels below .08%, do not appear visibly impaired and can safely control their cars. However, for those under the age of 21, a BAC level above zero may warrant an arrest and DUI charge.

For those wondering why zero-tolerance laws were put in place, it is because many younger drivers have lost their lives in automobile accidents in which alcohol played a contributing factor. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, zero-tolerance laws have greatly reduced the number of fatal collisions involving individuals 21 years of age and younger. While put in place for a good reason, these laws also result in members of the younger population facing penalties that may seem extreme and can have long-term consequences.

North Carolina residents who are facing underage drinking charges do have the right to a criminal defense. With the help of legal counsel, it will be possible to question any evidence offered in one’s case, which may bring information to light that will prove helpful in court. While it is impossible to guarantee a certain end result, an experienced criminal defense attorney will work tirelessly to achieve the best outcome possible for the client — whether that be a case dismissal or, at least, a reduction in charges and penalties.