Underage DWI in North Carolina

The Consequences of an Underage DWI in North Carolina

North Carolina is often regarded as one of the strictest states when it comes to DWI (driving while intoxicated) laws. This is not only the case for adults, but for those under 21 as well. In fact, underage DWI laws in North Carolina are even stricter than those imposed on adults.

North Carolina Underage DWI Laws

There are several components of underage DWI laws in North Carolina:

Zero Tolerance Law in North Carolina

Adults drivers over the age of 21 can be convicted of a DWI if their BAC (blood alcohol content) exceeds 0.08%. However, for drivers under 21, there is a zero tolerance law.

That means if an underage drivers with a BAC of 0.01% or higher can be penalized to the fullest extent of the law. This is true for drug impairment as well.

Implied Consent Law in North Carolina

North Carolina’s implied consent law applies to both minor and adult drivers. Technically, you do not have to consent to a breath test to determine your BAC. Unfortunately, refusing to do so will result in an implied consent offense and an automatic 1-year driver’s license revocation.

Underage drivers in North Carolina can also be convicted of a DWI without a BAC test. North Carolina law mandates that underage drivers can be arrested and convicted of a DWI for a variety of reasons, including if:

  • The smell of alcohol is present on their breath.
  • Erratic driving, swerving, or weaving led to the initial traffic stop.
  • They fail a physical field sobriety test.
  • There are other physical signs of impairment, such as slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, or lack of balance.

Penalties for Underage DWI in North Carolina

Underage DWIs are class 2 misdemeanors in North Carolina. The exact penalties depend on several factors, like the presiding judge and whether it’s the individual’s first conviction.

Generally, underage drivers convicted of DWIs in North Carolina can expect some or all of the following penalties:

  • Immediate license revocation for as little as 30 days or as long as 1 year. The time frame depends on the conviction (and whether a breathalyzer test was refused).
  • A maximum of 60 days in jail.
  • Fines not to exceed $1,000.
  • Judge mandated community service and/or drug and alcohol treatment.

Note that if the driver is over 18 but has never been convicted of a DWI before, they may be able to apply for limited driving privileges.

Getting an Underage DWI Expunged in North Carolina

Underage drivers should know that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs could haunt them forever. Many young people assume that DWIs can be expunged from their records after a certain period of time. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

DWI convictions can only be expunged from permanent records if they occur before the driver turns 18. If the driver is over 18, arrests can be expunged but DWI convictions are permanent. Convinced drivers must consider that they’ll face insurance increases. They’ll also be forced to disclose their conviction to future colleges, employers, etc.

Don’t Let Underage DWIs Affect Your Future

If you or your child is under 21 and has been arrested for DWI in North Carolina, it is critical that you contact a North Carolina DWI attorney. At Mulligan Attorneys,, our Wilmington-based, North Carolina DWI lawyers are standing by. We’re here for you during this difficult time and are happy to help you and your family navigate an underage DWI arrest.

If you or a loved one has been convicted of an underage DWI in North Carolina, get in touch with us at 910-763-1100.