Many people in North Carolina are entirely unaware of the State’s harsh law prohibiting the operation of a vehicle after consuming any amount of alcohol by individuals under 21. Under NCGS 20-138.3(a), “Driving by person less than 21 years old after consuming alcohol or drugs,” in the same section of the code as NC’s DWI statute, the law is stated as follows:
It is unlawful for a person less than 21 years old to drive a motor vehicle on a highway or public vehicular area while consuming alcohol or at any time while he has remaining in his body any alcohol or controlled substance previously consumed, but a person less than 21 years old does not violate this section if he drives with a controlled substance in his body which was lawfully obtained and taken in therapeutically appropriate amounts.
Under North Carolina’s “zero tolerance” application of this law, “any alcohol” previously consumed means that you can be convicted of this offense — a Class 2 Misdemeanor — if you register any number above 0.00% on a chemical analysis (breathalyzer or blood) test. Underage individuals may also be charged with (and potentially convicted) of a DWI in the same case, based on the same facts, but underage drinking and driving is not a lesser-included offense of DWI.