North Carolina’s laws to prohibit underage drinking are clear: You must be 21 or older to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages.
Even with the law in place, hundreds of North Carolina teens die every year as a result of alcohol poisoning or drunk driving. State lawmakers believe one death is too many especially when underage drinking is preventable. For that reason, North Carolina’s laws are stricter than many states in the country.
For example, as reported by the National Institute of Health, North Carolina has a NO EXCEPTIONS policy for the possession or consumption of alcohol by minors, compared to other states that have some exceptions.
North Carolina Laws and Policies For Underage Drinking and Possession
In addition to the possession and consumption laws, North Carolina also has a No Exceptions policy for the purchase of alcohol by minors, and is one of the stricter states for the enforcement of underage age drinking and driving laws. Here’s an overview of NC’s underage drinking laws:
Underage Drinking: Underage Possession of Alcohol
Possession is prohibited with NO EXCEPTIONS.
Underage Drinking: Underage Consumption of Alcohol
Consumption is prohibited with NO EXCEPTIONS.
Underage Drinking: Internal Possession by Minors
Internal possession is prohibited with NO EXCEPTIONS.
Underage Drinking: Underage Purchase of Alcohol
Purchase is prohibited and there is NO ALLOWANCE for youth purchase for law enforcement purposes.
Underage Drinking: Furnishing Alcohol to Minors
Furnishing is prohibited with NO EXCEPTIONS.
Underage Drinking: Minimum Ages for On-Premises Servers and Bartenders
- Beer: 18 for both servers and bartenders
- Wine: 18 for both servers and bartenders
- Spirits: 18 for servers and 21 for bartenders
Underage Drinking: Minimum Ages for Off-Premises Sellers
- Beer: Not Specified
- Wine: Not Specified
- Spirits: 18
Underage Drinking: False Identification for Obtaining Alcohol
Provision(s) targeting minors:
- Use of a fake ID to obtain alcohol is a criminal offense
- Penalty may include driver’s license suspension through a judicial procedure
Provision(s) targeting suppliers:
- It is a criminal offense to lend, transfer, or sell a false ID
Provision(s) targeting retailers:
- State provides incentives to retailers who use electronic scanners that read birthdate and other information digitally encoded on valid identification cards
- Licenses for drivers under age 21 are easily distinguishable from those for drivers age 21 and older
- Retailers are permitted to seize apparently false IDs
- Specific affirmative defense – the retailer inspected the false ID and came to a reasonable conclusion based on its appearance that it was valid
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits: Youth (Underage Operators of Noncommercial Motor Vehicles)
- BAC limit: 0.00 – any detectable alcohol in the blood is per se (conclusive) evidence of a violation.
- Applies to drivers under age 21.
Retail Sales: Keg Registration
- Keg definition: 7.75 or more gallons
- Prohibited: Possessing an unregistered, unlabeled keg – max. fine/jail: Discretionary fine / 45 days
- Purchaser information collected: Purchaser’s name and address, verified by a government-issued ID, address where keg will be consumed
- Warning information to purchaser: active – purchaser action required (e.g., signature)
- Deposit: not required
- Provisions do not specifically address disposable kegs
Underage Drinking: Use/Lose: Driving Privileges
- Type(s) of violation leading to driver’s license suspension, revocation, or denial:
- Underage purchase
- Use/lose penalties apply to minors under age 21
- Authority to impose driver’s license sanction
- Length of suspension/revocation: 365 days
Underage Drinking: Prohibitions Against Hosting Underage Drinking Parties
No State-imposed liability for hosting underage drinking parties.
Consequences of Underage Drinking in North Carolina
Asheville DWI Lawyer James Minick details the range of possible consequences of an underage drinking ticket in North Carolina.
What do you think of these laws? Too strict? Do you think more is needed to prevent underage drinking in our state?