If you are under 21 and have been convicted of DWI in North Carolina, you are likely feeling scared and overwhelmed about what comes next and how this will affect your future. It is no secret that DWI convictions can affect your college, housing, and career prospects, which is a terrifying reality to face after making a single mistake at such a young age. Making the prospect even more stressful is that North Carolina’s zero tolerance policy can often result in DWI convictions without direct evidence. This can mean that individuals under 21 can be charged for DWI without even having consumed any alcohol or illicit substances.
Understanding Underage DWI
North Carolina has adopted a zero tolerance policy for DWIs, as drinking under the age of 21 is illegal, having absolutely any trace of alcohol in your system while driving is grounds for a DWI charge. Whereas those over 21 years of age can have a blood alcohol concentration up to .08, those under 21 can be charged for having any amount of alcohol in their system above 0. This can result in false results based on alcohol-based mouthwashes or even gum. Further, a breathalyzer is not necessary to arrest someone under 21 for DWI. Police can make an arrest based on circumstantial evidence, such as the smell of alcohol on a driver’s breath, reckless or erratic driving consistent with being under the influence, physical signs of intoxication such as bloodshot eyes or slurred speech, or failing a field sobriety test (such as standing on one foot or reciting the alphabet backward). As you can imagine, these loose guidelines often lead to inaccurate charges and unfair convictions.
Consequences for an Underage DWI in North Carolina
North Carolina is known to be one of the harshest states on underage DWI offenses. Generally, these offenses will be charged as a class 2 misdemeanor. This can carry a sentence of up to sixty days in prison, a fine of $1,000, license suspension for up to a year, and community service or alcohol treatment programs as stipulated by the judge. One thing that some people do not realize when considering consequences, is that while arrests can be expunged from your record after a certain number of years, DWI offenses are permanent. This is important to consider when determining how to proceed, as accepting a DWI charge or receiving a conviction, will likely have a lifelong impact.
What Should I Do?
If you are facing an underage DWI charge in North Carolina, the best thing you can do is hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The faster you retain counsel, the sooner they can begin working on getting the best possible outcome for you. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case, they may be able to reduce your charge (for instance from underage DWI to reckless driving) or mitigate the penalties.
Schedule a Consultation
If you have been charged with underage DWI you may feel powerless, but this is the point at which you actually have the most power to affect the outcome of your case. Contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys as Coastal South Law and schedule a consultation today.