What Happens if You’re Caught Drinking Under 21?

Doug Edwards

Underage drinkers can be subject to North Carolina’s alcohol laws. These include misdemeanor charges and losing your driver’s license. Find out what to do if you are caught with alcohol under 21.

Under 21 Drinking in The North Carolina

North Carolina prohibits minors from legally consuming alcohol in any circumstances. If parents permit it, alcohol may be allowed in other states. North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy that allows you to drink regardless of whether your parents allow it.

NC Law states that it is illegal to possess, purchase, or consume alcohol if you’re under 21 years of age. It is illegal to purchase alcohol if you are under 21. You and the person buying it can be punished if you ask someone else to buy it.

Criminal Charges

If you are under 21, and law enforcement finds you purchasing, trying to purchase, or possessing alcohol in your possession, you could face criminal charges. Under age 19, you face a Class 1 misdemeanor. A Class 3 misdemeanor can be committed in North Carolina if you’re 19 or 20 years old. (2)

These misdemeanor criminal charges could lead to:

  • The judge can impose fines of up to $200
  • Service to the community
  • Jail time, $250 fine automatically
  • Court costs around $200
  • Attorney fees
  • Treatment or education about alcohol
  • You could lose your driver’s license for up to one year

Sentencing is dependent on your ability to defend yourself and the judge. You don’t want your underage drinking ticket to be paid or to appear in court without an attorney. Your attorney will be able to explain how to present specific defenses. An experienced attorney could make the difference between losing or keeping your driver’s license.

Alcohol Charges for Underage Drinking in Nc

There are many types of charges that can be brought against you for drinking alcohol while a minor. Among the possible tickets that you could receive are:

  • Possession of alcohol
  • You are trying to purchase alcohol
  • Consuming alcohol
  • Buy alcohol
  • Underage DWI


If you are found guilty of alcohol possession, you could be charged with the following:

  • You have the alcohol in your hand, or in your pocket.
  • No one else had the same access to alcohol
  • You intended to possess the alcohol
  • You could also be charged with possession if you:
  • You could have access to the alcohol OR if it was nearby (such as in your car).

Alcohol was a substance that you, your friends, and your family knew about and were able to access.

Buying Alcohol

If you are under 21 and enter a shop to purchase alcohol, you are committing a crime. A Class 1 misdemeanor is when you are caught by law enforcement while trying to buy alcohol. The court will decide what sentence you receive. The Division of Motor Vehicles will suspend your driver’s license if you are convicted.


DWI is a serious offense in North Carolina. This crime can’t be erased from your record if you are convicted. After a few years, many misdemeanor-level offenses can be removed by the state. A DWI does not affect your record.

You can be charged with driving after having consumed alcohol if you are under 21. You can be charged regardless of whether or not you are impaired because you are under 21 years old. You could also lose your license if you are convicted.

What Can You Do if You Are Suspected to Be Charged with Underage Alcohol Charges

What should you do if you are caught by law enforcement possessing or drinking alcohol in North Carolina while you’re under 21? It is best to consult a defense attorney to help you understand your options, and determine the best course for you.

An experienced attorney can help you defend yourself against charges depending on your specific situation. Some defenses include:

  • Your rights were violated by law enforcement
  • You didn’t own the alcohol
  • It was not obvious that alcohol was an alcoholic substance.
  • Someone forced you against your will to drink
  • You were on private property
  • You were not being pulled over by the officer.
  • Random traffic stops brought you DWI charges
  • You didn’t realize alcohol was in your car
  • Dubious tests were used by law enforcement to determine if you were drinking

An experienced DUI lawyer will help you navigate the complicated legal system and ensure that you get the best possible outcome. An attorney can negotiate with you to have your charges dropped and exonerated, depending on your criminal record. An experienced attorney is a good choice, especially if you have been charged in the past. Do not hesitate to contact an experienced attorney if you or someone you are concerned about is facing charges for underage drinking.

We Can Help

For a free consultation, contact our experienced defense lawyers at Edwards Law if you are facing charges of possessing or drinking alcohol while under 21. We will investigate your case and help you to develop a defense plan. Many times, we help first-time offenders to enter a program that will dismiss the charges against them. Even if this is not your first offense, we can help you qualify for a diversion program or treatment program that will reduce or dismiss the charges. We also have the ability to fight the case at trial. Our legal team at Edwards Law will fight for your rights every step of the process.

Give us a call at (828) 702-8743