As we near the end of April, we are also approaching the end of the school year. Spring brings a series of proms, and graduation parties all across North Carolina. The governor has declared April as Alcohol Abuse Awareness Month. Parents and teens alike generally know that underage drinking is prohibited under North Carolina law. And when teens and 20-year-olds drink and drive, the consequences can be increased.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving says that consequences that can arise from underage drinking– other than those in the justice system–can be severe for young adults, regardless of whether a teen drives or not. The organization says that the majority of deaths that can be linked to underage drinking do not occur in drunk driving car accidents. MADD says that 68 percent of alcohol-related fatalities are from non-traffic related causes-including murder, suicide and alcohol poisoning.
Authorities say that underage drinkers accounted for nearly ten percent of all alcohol sold in the state in 2010. Officials also say that 34 percent of high school students admitted in a survey to having consumed alcohol within the 30 days preceding the study.
The data is general data, not related just to the end of the school year. However, as prom season slides by and the graduation season approaches, many high school, and even college aged kids, may find themselves receiving a citation for underage drinking. Many drivers may face underage DUI or DWI charges as we move toward the summer months.
When it comes to driving offenses, a teen can be charged with DWI based upon the traditional concepts of DWI laws in North Carolina. But, the state has a zero tolerance for underage drivers. Essentially, any evidence of alcohol, such as a reading as low as 0.01 percent, can support an underage DUI charge in North Carolina. Underage drivers accused of drinking and driving can also expect to have their licenses suspended.
Anyone facing underage alcohol offenses in North Carolina should not take the matter lightly. Teens accused of underage possession or consumption, and especially drunk driving offenses, should consider seeking the assistance of a criminal defense lawyer to assess the allegations and devise a defense to the accusations.
- Fuquay-Varina Independent, “April is Alcohol Abuse Awareness Month,” April 26, 2013
- KLTV 7, “Underage drinking leads to fatalities on, off roads,” Updated April 24, 2013