North Carolina is strict on underage drinking compared to some states. If your child is charged with underage drinking, you may be wondering what could happen and how might it affect your child’s future. You don’t want one mistake to ruin your child’s future. Here are a few facts you should know about underage drinking:

  • The law. No one under 21 years of age can possess, purchase or attempt to purchase alcohol. Violations are a class 1 misdemeanor. The Department of Motor Vehicles can revoke someone’s driver’s license, if convicted. Prosecutors may increase possession charges to a class 3 misdemeanor for 19 or 20-year-olds. In addition, the drunk driving laws have a zero-tolerance policy for anyone under 21. This means they cannot have a blood alcohol reading of anything over 0.00.
  • Providing alcohol to minors. People who provide alcohol to minors, whether selling, buying on their behalf or loaning an ID, may also face criminal charges and fines.
  • Other consequences. Aside from possible fines and community service, your child may have to pay attorney’s fees, lose their license and may not work for a business that has a liquor license for two years.
  • Dangers of alcohol. In addition to your child’s legal trouble, you may worry about his or her health and safety. Unfortunately, alcohol still plays a large part in fatal accidents among teenagers. In addition, many teenagers binge-drink when they consume alcohol, which can have dangerous, even fatal, health effects.

So, what should you do if your child gets ticketed with underage drinking? Fortunately, North Carolina has a deferral program for first-time offenders of alcohol violations other than DWI. The program serves minors 16 and up who do not have any previous criminal convictions or participation in other deferral programs. If your child is eligible and completes the program, the court will take the charge off your child’s record. The requirements may include, but are not limited to:

  • Admitting guilt
  • Attending a health learning session regarding alcohol
  • Community service hours
  • Attend a driving program
  • Attend school or have a job
  • Not commit another offense

Although this program may provide a way for your child to clear his or her record, note that they do have to admit guilt. Therefore, if they fail to complete the program successfully, they will have a criminal charge on their record.

Knowing the law and understanding how underage drinking can affect your child’s future are the first steps to helping your child.