No parent wants to receive a phone call that their underage child has been arrested for a DUI in North Carolina, but unfortunately, it happens frequently. While you’re grateful that they weren’t in an accident and hurt themselves or someone else, you’re also feeling frustrated, worried, and angry. The most important thing you can do is to help them not let an impulsive mistake follow them for the rest of their life. Our DUI attorneys in Raleigh are sharing the steps you need to take when your child has been arrested for a DUI.
North Carolina Underage DWI Laws
In North Carolina, driving under the influence, or DUI, is actually charged as driving while intoxicated, or DWI. While they mean the same thing, from a legal perspective, we will refer to it as DWI.
While adult drivers who are 21 or over must have a blood alcohol content of 0.08 percent or higher to receive a conviction for a DWI, drivers under 21 aren’t allotted that same threshold. North Carolina has a zero-tolerance law related to underage DWI, so any driver with a blood alcohol content of just 0.01 percent or higher can be subject to harsh penalties under the law. Also, a breath test is not necessary to convict, simply the smell of alcohol on an underage person’s breath, erratic driving, or other signs of impairment is considered enough evidence to convict.
Underage DWI Penalties in NC
Underage drivers who have been charged with a DWI will have their license suspended for a minimum of 30 days, even if they have not been convicted. Additionally, if they refuse to take a breath test, your child can lose their license for up to one year, whether they are convicted or not.
On top of losing their driving privileges, an underage DWI is a class 2 misdemeanor that is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine. However, a prior criminal record is factored into the sentence, and a judge may choose probation, drug and alcohol treatment, or community service rather than time in jail.
Fighting an Underage DWI Charge
As a parent, you know that your child losing their license could be devastating as they couldn’t drive to school or work. Even worse, they can’t afford a fine and time in jail could derail them from their classes and cause them to get fired from their job. There are also long-term challenges to having a DWI conviction on their record, including the inability to find quality employment, rent an apartment, or get car insurance.
Fortunately, you and your child don’t have to go through this alone. As soon as your child calls you saying they’ve been arrested, it’s important to take action.
First, don’t panic or get upset. We understand this may be difficult, but it’s important to keep a cool head. Don’t ask questions about their actions over the phone or talk about their actions in front of the police. Anything said could be noted and used against your child when their case is heard.
Call a DWI Attorney
After you get off the phone or pick up your child, call a DWI attorney to get started on your case. Even if a case seems open and shut, an experienced attorney can advocate for your child and help them beat the charge, negotiate a plea bargain for a less serious charge, or get a significantly reduced sentence, such as probation or community service.
Consider an Alcohol Counseling program
Discuss with your attorney whether it would benefit your child’s case if they were to take part in an alcohol treatment or counseling program. Often, the court will show leniency if the defendant is attempting to make amends or change the behavior that led to the arrest. Counseling, a treatment program, or therapy could be beneficial.
Call Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh for a Free Consultation
If your child has been arrested for driving while intoxicated, our DWI attorneys in Raleigh can help. Our experienced legal team will fight on their behalf to achieve favorable outcomes and help them move forward with dignity. To speak with an attorney 24 hours a day, call us at (919) 845-6688 or schedule a free consultation using the form below.