Underage Possession of Alcohol
The legal drinking age in North Carolina is 21. Under state law, it is a misdemeanor offense for anyone under the age of 21 to buy, consume or be in possession of alcohol.
Penalties for Underage Possession
Underage possession of alcohol for anyone 18 and younger is charged as Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina punishable by:
- Maximum of 45 days of probation (also called “community punishment”)
- Fine to be determined by a judge
19 or 20 year-olds who purchase, possess or consume alcohol can be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor, which is punishable by a maximum fine of $200 and up to 20 days of either jail or probation.
If you were found to be in possession of alcohol during an alcohol related incident—such as driving under the influence—a report of your conviction will also be sent to the Division of Motor Vehicles, which will revoke your license for one year under NCGS 18B-302(g). .
Exceptions to the Law
There are certain circumstances in which a minor may be allowed to consumer or possess alcohol, such as:
- Religion: Wine may be consumed by an underage person as part of communion in a church setting
- Education: An underage person who is registered in a licensed culinary program may consume alcohol but only under the supervision of a professor and only if that consumption is part of the curriculum for a class
- Employment: An underage person employed by an establishment with a liquor license may move, possess or dispense alcohol while at work; however he or she may not consume alcohol on the job