The old proverb that every dark cloud has a silver lining continues to gather supporting evidence. Today’s example is the rise in gasoline prices. While high fuel prices have been blamed for everything from inflating costs of food to anemic U.S. economic health, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found something positive. A few weeks ago, they announced that costly fuel has been keeping teenagers off the roads—and this, in turn, has meant fewer teenage drunk driving incidents. Overall, the study suggests that teenagers drive after drinking half as often as they did 20 years ago.
Even if drunk driving rates are falling nationwide, New Hanover County (and the nearby communities in Pender, Robeson, Columbus, and Brunswick Counties) has certainly seen plenty of cases of teenagers driving after drinking. Too often these cases become occasions for severe traffic accidents in our corner of North Carolina. Even if no accident occurs, a teenager pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving can face severe consequences—not just a loss of driving privileges, but diminished prospects for employment and education in the future.
Four key facts to bear in mind about teen drinking and driving in North Carolina
Of course, other factors have come into play in suppressing teenage drunk driving. Pro-sobriety campaigns by advocacy groups such as MADD have been influential, and state laws have become less lenient toward intoxicated teenagers behind the wheel. North Carolina legislators and law enforcement officers have been part of this movement to hold teenage drunk drivers accountable.
It’s important to remember these four essential points about the legal consequences of driving after drinking:
1. There is no “safe” blood-alcohol limit for teen drivers. There is no legal limit for intoxication for drivers under age 21 in North Carolina. A one-year license suspension will occur for any teenager who registers any blood-alcohol concentration above zero on a Breathalyzer or blood test.
2. A teen can be detained or arrested even after passing a roadside Breathalyzer test. Law enforcement officials are allowed to use their professional judgment when they believe a driver is intoxicated. If a driver is believed to be “appreciably impaired,” he can be required to come to the police station or sheriff’s office for a blood test.
3. The alcohol alone may be worth a misdemeanor charge. A minor aged 16 or older who has violated the state laws against purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction can carry a penalty of up to 45 days probation and a possible fine. Teenagers under age 16 will not be charged in criminal court for alcohol offenses, but they may face adult criminal charges if their drunk driving led to serious injury or death.
4. Minors may be able to avoid having a criminal record at all. The specific details of the case are critical, and so is representation by an experienced DWI defense attorney. Consult with your lawyer about the available options for your case—or your minor child’s case.
Statistics show that, in 2009, driving after underage drinking was a factor in 41 motor vehicle fatalities and 1,693 nonfatal traffic injuries in North Carolina. In the face of this record, our lawmakers are not going to go easy on young people believed to be driving while intoxicated.
If your child is arrested in Wilmington or any nearby town for driving under the influence, call 877-593-4233 to connect to our DWI defense lawyers at Speaks Law Firm. We have extensive experience providing successful defenses for adults and teenagers accused of drinking and driving in North Carolina. Call us today to learn about how our legal representation can make a crucial difference for your child’s future.