Understanding the Zero Tolerance policy

Griffin Law, PLLC
Dec 19, 2023

Driving while impaired (DWI) is a criminal offense with serious consequences in North Carolina. Those convicted can expect a bevy of penalties, including fines, jail time, and license suspensions. To be charged with DWI, a driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level needs to be at least .08% at the time of the offense, determined through testing.

However, the state’s DWI laws are even harsher on drivers under 21. This is because young drivers who operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated violate North Carolina’s “Zero Tolerance” policy. What is this policy, and how does it affect a DWI charge?

No tolerance for any amount of alcohol

Essentially, the Zero Tolerance policy means that it’s illegal for a person under 21 to drive a motor vehicle with any amount of alcohol or controlled substance in their system. This means there aren’t any BAC limits on testing – even the smallest hint of alcohol or a controlled substance can lead to DWI charges for a driver under 21.

The penalties for violation

The penalties begin even before a trial over the young driver’s DWI offense begins. A driver under 21 charged with DWI can have their license immediately revoked following charges. This driving privilege forfeiture can last for a whole year.

If a court convicts a young driver of DWI, they face up to 60 days of community punishment or up to 60 days of jail. A court may also order the convicted driver to pay as much as $1,000 in fines.

Offenders may be able to apply for the limited restoration of their driving privileges, but their age during the date of the offense has to be between 18 and 20 years old.

DWI charges are serious matters – doubly so if the driver charged is under 21. It’s important for those accused of drunk driving, whether under or over 21, to seek the help of a legal professional. An attorney can help young drivers navigate the hearing and license reinstatement processes.

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