The question “how should you handle an underage drinking ticket?” looms large in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Because of the presence of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Cape Fear Community College, and various high schools, a high number of underage drinking incidents occur and law enforcement officers are giving underage drinking citations on a regular bases.
Why is this an issue? It is an issue because the tickets not only bear criminal and financial consequences, but also can affect a young individual’s future job prospects and educational plans.
Underage Drinking Tickets NC
Generally, when someone receives an underage drinking citation, they assume that there is only one type of citation – a citation for underage drinking. That is not the case. There are a multitude of different citations, each on with different punishments and consequences.
These penalties for underage drinking can range from: jail time, fines, loss of driving privileges, a criminal record, and/or the requirement to answer “Yes” to the question, “Have you ever been charged with a crime?” on job or school applications.
Consequences of an Underage Alcohol Conviction
Typically, if you plead guilty to an underage alcohol charge, you may encounter some serious issues. For many of the underage drinking offenses, the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) will be notified and you may lose your driving privileges for an extended period of time.
On a more long term note, a conviction for these offenses will create a permanent criminal record. Oftentimes, this is the most serious consequence, due to future problems involving job applications and prospects, applying for a new apartment or home, applying to college or graduate school, or even issues with obtaining professional licenses or certifications.
Underage Drinking Ticket Attorneys
Because of the seriousness of these underage drinking citations, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice and services of an experienced attorney. By retaining an attorney on your case, you may be able to avoid a conviction and the numerous issues that follow.
Additionally, an attorney will likely be able to get you involved with the deferred prosecution program that the New Hanover county District Attorney’s office has in place, thus potentially minimizing the effects of the ticket.
Deferred prosecution is a program that effectively creates a contract between a defendant and the District Attorney’s office. This contract requires an individual to accept responsibility for their actions and to fulfill certain requirements. In exchange, the District Attorney’s office will agree to dismiss the charges against the individual at a later point.
Typically, these requirements involve: payment of court costs and fines, a certain amount of community service, observation of DWI Treatment court, participation in alcohol classes, and a period of unsupervised probation.
Deferred Prosecution Eligibility
Generally, to be eligible for the deferred prosecution program, you must have a clean criminal record. This is designed to help first time offenders avoid the substantial consequences of an underage drinking conviction due to a first time lapse in judgment.
To determine whether you are eligible, your attorney will have the District Attorney’s office run a criminal background check on you. If it comes back clear, the District Attorney’s office may then sign off on your deferred prosecution agreement.
Deferred Prosecution Steps
Generally, in New Hanover county, most deferred prosecution agreements involve a 12-month period of unsupervised probation.
There will be a review date that occurs 60 days from the date you entered into the deferred prosecution program (typically your first court date). At that review date, you will be required to have completed the stated requirements (community service, alcohol classes, etc.).
At the end of the 12-month period of unsupervised probation, you will be required to make one last court appearance to show your completion of the deferred prosecution program.
As long as everything is completed, the charges will be dismissed. This means that there will be no conviction on your record and you may be eligible for expunction (removal) of the charges from your criminal record.
Although this may seem like a long and tedious process, the results of the deferred prosecution program (dismissal of the charges instead of conviction), far outweigh any inconvenience caused.
Underage or not, you should never drink and drive. However, if you are underage, the consequences are much worse and there are more long term repercussion. Be smart, be safe; don’t drink and drive.
If you have been charged with an underage alcohol citation, don’t hesitate to contact our Wilmington office of Minick Law, P.C. for a free consultation.