Underage drinking in North Carolina and criminal records
North Carolina is one of two states in the country that treats all individuals age 16-years-old and older as adults when charged with a criminal offense. An underage drinking ticket, for example, is a legally considered a crime under North Carolina law, and paying the ticket results in an adult court conviction, which is included in a person’s criminal record.
The Times-News recently carries an article recounting the story of an Alamance County woman who was charged with underage drinking when she was 16. The woman was placed on probation under an agreement for a deferred prosecution. She complied with the terms of probation and the case was dropped without a full prosecution.
The woman later attended UNC-Charlotte and graduated with honors. She applied for a job in the insurance industry in another state, six years after the underage drinking charge arose. During the application process, a background check uncovered the record of the charge. The underage drinking charge was an isolated event; the woman’s record was otherwise clean.
The issue caused problems during the application process for the woman. She explained the issue to the prospective employer. She explained the charge was a misdemeanor, and was dropped without prosecution. Ultimately, the woman did not get the job.
The file remained a public record, because North Carolina treats 16-year-old individuals as adults in all criminal cases. In most other states, the woman’s record of being charged with underage drinking would have been a juvenile matter, and generally would have been sealed by the time her record became an issue.
Students at East Carolina University, Pitt Community College, Pitt County area schools, or young adults who are facing charges can face a number of consequences when charged with a criminal offense in North Carolina. At times, the potential consequences may not only result from the criminal justice system itself.
Young adults faced with North Carolina offenses can speak with an experienced Pitt County defense attorney to help protect against having criminal charges having an impact on academic and professional opportunities.
Source: The Times-News, “Age of offenders,” Michael Abernathy, Oct. 2, 2011