Underage Possession of Alcohol
With numerous colleges and universities in the area, police in and around Raleigh frequently charge students under 21 years of age with unlawfully possessing alcoholic beverages. While consumption charges can often be trickier for authorities to definitively prove, illegal possession is typically more clear-cut.
The effects of a conviction for one of these offenses can be extremely damaging for people under 21 years of age. A criminal record could possibly result in a current student being suspended or expelled, and aspiring students may have their applications rejected.
Underage Possession of Alcohol Lawyer in Raleigh
Were you or your child charged with illegally possessing an alcoholic beverage in North Carolina? Coolidge Law Firm aggressively defends clients all over the greater Raleigh area against these charges.
Our Wake County underage possession attorneys represent students at numerous colleges and universities in the area, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), Wake Technical Community College (Wake Tech), Meredith College, North Carolina State University (NCSU), Duke University, William Peace University, and Shaw University. We can review your case and help you understand all of your legal options as soon as you call right now to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
Wake County Underage Possession of Alcohol Overview
- How are criminal charges determined in these cases?
- What are the consequences if an alleged offender is convicted?
- Does state law allow minors to possess alcohol in certain settings?
- Is there additional information available about underage drinking?
Unlawful possession is one of the many criminal offenses listed under North Carolina General Statute § 18B-302. The classification of the crime depends on the age of the alleged offender and the type of alcoholic beverage he allegedly possessed.
- If an alleged offender is 18 years of age or younger, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor to possess any type of alcoholic beverage.
- If an alleged offender is 19 or 20 years of age, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor to possess fortified wine, spirituous liquor, or mixed beverages. It is a Class 3 misdemeanor to possess malt beverages or unfortified wine.
This statute also makes it illegal for any person to enter or attempt to enter a place where alcoholic beverages are sold or consumed, or to obtain or attempt to obtain alcoholic beverages or permission to purchase alcoholic beverages by using or attempting to use a fraudulent or altered driver’s license, ID card, or other identification document. It is also unlawful for a minor to use a driver’s license, ID card, or other identification document issued to another person.
Adults21 years of age or older can also face criminal charges for selling or giving alcoholic beverages to minors, including allowing a minor to use fraudulent identification to obtain fortified wine, spirituous liquor, mixed beverages, malt beverages, or unfortified wine. These offenses are classified as Class 1 misdemeanors.
If an alleged offender is convicted of unlawful alcohol possession, his punishment will depend on the specific offense, his age, and whether he has been previously convicted of one of these crimes. Under North Carolina’s Structured Sentencing system, alleged offenders are classified into one of three prior conviction levels when determining a misdemeanor punishment..
Depending on their criminal records, people may be sentenced to an active, intermediate, or community punishment. An active punishment involves incarceration in the state prison system or misdemeanor confinement program, a community punishment involves a term or supervised or unsupervised probation, and an intermediate punishment typically involves a combination of the two.
If an alleged offender has no prior convictions, he will be graded as a Prior Conviction Level I. One to four prior convictions is classified as Prior Conviction Level II, and five or more is considered Prior Conviction Level III.
The possible punishments for these class levels are as follows:
- Class 1 Misdemeanor — Community punishment of up to 45 days for Prior Conviction Level I, community, intermediate, or active punishment of up to 45 days for Prior Conviction Level II, or community, intermediate, or active punishment of up to 120 days for Prior Conviction Level III.
- Class 3 Misdemeanor — Community punishment of up to 10 days for Prior Conviction Level I, community or intermediate active punishment of up to 15 days for Prior Conviction Level II, or community, intermediate, or active punishment of up to 20 days for Prior Conviction Level III.
Judges will also typically impose fines in these cases, and convictions are reported to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles. Convicted offenders will have their driving privileges suspended for one year and they will be ineligible for any limited driving privileges during this time.
North Carolina state law does allow for minors to possess alcohol in certain specific situations. These include:
- North Carolina General Statute § 18B-103(8) — The possession and use of unfortified wine or fortified wine for sacramental purpose by any organized church or ordained minister, including in public school buildings when the use of those buildings is approved by the local school board;
- North Carolina General Statute § 18B-103(11) — Under the direct supervision of an instructor during a culinary class that is part of an established culinary curriculum at an accredited college or university, the delivery to or possession by a student who is less than 21 years of age when the student is required to taste or imbibe the alcoholic beverage during a culinary class conducted pursuant to the curriculum; and
- North Carolina General Statute § 18B-302(h) — Selling, transporting, possessing, or dispensing alcoholic beverages by an underage person in the course of employment, if the employment of the person for that purpose is lawful under applicable youth employment statutes and Commission rules.
Talk It Out — This is the website for a campaign launched by the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. You can find facts about underage drinking, ways for parents to start conversations, and how to get help if you believe your child has a problem. There is also additional research about underage drinking, videos, and other resources.
400 East Tryon Road
Raleigh, NC 27610
The North Carolina Preventing Underage Drinking Initiative (NC-PUDI) — The Community Policy Management Section of the North Carolina Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Abuse Services in the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services administers the NC-PUDI. The website contains information about the national and statewide scope of this problem, facts about underage drinking, and community collaborative efforts that support strategies to prevent underage use of alcohol. You can also find a project overview, outcomes, and a community action tool kit.
3021 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-3021
Speak to a Lawyer for Underage Possession of Alcohol
If you or your child was recently arrested for illegally possessing alcoholic beverages in North Carolina, you should immediately seek legal counsel for help in securing the best possible outcome to your case. Coolidge Law Firm can develop the strongest possible defense and work tirelessly to help you avoid the damaging consequences of a criminal record.
Our firm represents high school and college students throughout the greater Raleigh area, including such communities as Cary, Apex, Wake Forest, Garner, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Morrisville, Knightdale, Wendell, Zebulon, and Rolesville. Call (919) 239-8448 today or fill out the contact form below to have our Wake County criminal defense attorneys evaluate your case during a completely free initial consultation.