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Is North Carolina a Zero-Tolerance State?

On Behalf of Christian Ayers
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North Carolina is a zero-tolerance state for drivers under 21 years of age. Every driver has a legal duty to obey the rules of the road and operate their vehicle responsibly. Unfortunately, drivers continue to violate this duty of care by driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs. If you were injured in such an accident, a Charlotte drunk driving accident lawyer can help hold the drunk driver accountable and secure compensation for your damages.

Understanding North Carolina DUI Laws

In the state, it is illegal for any driver to operate a vehicle while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. Police will determine whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol using a chemical testing system that checks blood-alcohol concentration (BAC). The legal BAC limit for most drivers is .08%, and the legal limit for commercial drivers is .04%. Any amount over the legal limit will result in a DUI charge.

North Carolina’s Zero-Tolerance policy applies to drivers under the age of 21. Because these drivers are not legally allowed to purchase or consume alcohol, any detectable BAC will result in a DUI charge if they are tested for suspected impaired driving. Penalties for violations of the Zero-Tolerance policy are quite severe, and many underage drivers convicted of DUI will lose their driver’s licenses until they turn 21, sometimes longer.

In addition to a lengthy driver’s license suspension, underage drivers will also face compulsory community service, mandatory substance abuse treatment, and various other penalties assigned on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the court. Underage drivers charged with DUI are generally spared jail time as long as it is their first offense, but this is not guaranteed in every case, especially if an underage drunk driver caused an accident resulting in injury or death.

Is North Carolina a zero tolerance state?

Recovering From a Drunk Driver Accident

North Carolina enforces the fault rule for vehicle accidents, meaning the driver responsible for causing an accident is liable for all resulting damages. If a drunk driver caused your recent accident, they are liable for your damages and will face criminal prosecution. Recovery from most accidents in the state begins with an insurance claim against the at-fault driver, followed by a personal injury suit when their insurance can’t fully cover your damages.

Proving fault is generally straightforward in drunk driving accident claims. If the other driver was intoxicated when they caused your accident, they broke the law and are directly responsible for the effects of their behavior. However, it is vital to determine whether you hold any partial fault for the accident. If you are found at fault, even slightly, it will prevent you from claiming compensation under the state’s contributory negligence rule.

Your Charlotte drunk driving accident lawyer can help establish liability for your damages and file your auto insurance claim against the at-fault driver. If their insurance company disputes your claim, they will resolve these issues for you. When it comes to building a personal injury claim, your legal team can help you identify all the various forms of compensation you can claim from the defendant.

When another driver has injured you by breaking the law, you may not only recover compensation for the damages they caused, but also restitution and/or punitive damages at the discretion of the court. Ultimately, you could be entitled to a larger recovery than you might expect, and it is vital that you connect with an experienced attorney as quickly as possible to have the greatest chance of maximizing your total compensation.


Q: How Does the Zero-Tolerance Law Work?

A: The Zero-Tolerance law applies to drivers under the age of 21 in the state. While drivers over the age of 21 will only face DUI charges if they have a BAC over .08%, any detectable level of BAC for a driver under the age of 21 will result in a DUI charge. While drivers under 21 are sometimes shown some measure of leniency, they will usually lose their driver’s license for much longer than the standard suspension penalty for drivers over 21 convicted of DUI.

Q: Can You Drink and Ride in North Carolina?

A: While passengers can drink and ride in a vehicle, the state’s open container law does not allow a driver to consume alcohol while driving. While drinking and riding are technically legal, it is generally safer for all occupants of a vehicle to avoid consuming alcohol or having open alcohol containers inside the vehicle.

Q: What Are the Penalties for DUI?

A: The penalties for DUI in the state are varied; you could face a host of penalties, including a fine, loss of your driver’s license, and jail time. Penalties for DUI offenses automatically increase when a defendant has caused an accident resulting in great bodily harm or death and/or they have a record of past DUI convictions within the last few years. Penalties increase with each subsequent conviction.

Q: How Much Compensation Can I Claim for a Drunk Driving Accident?

A: Under the state’s personal injury laws, you have the right to seek full repayment of all the financial losses you sustained from a drunk driving accident, including your vehicle repair bills, medical expenses, and lost wages. You also have the right to claim pain and suffering compensation, and you may receive punitive damages due to the fact the defendant caused the accident by breaking the law.

Q: Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for a Drunk Driving Accident Claim?

A: You should always hire a lawyer for a drunk driving accident claim in the state. You may think that your case is relatively straightforward and that the drunk driver’s fault for your damages is obvious. However, working with a Charlotte drunk driving accident lawyer not only increases your chance of success with the recovery efforts you attempt but also increases your chances of maximizing your recovery as much as state law allows. Your attorney may reveal avenues of compensation you didn’t know were available to you.

The team at Ayers, Whitlow & Dressler regularly provides comprehensive and compassionate legal counsel to victims of all types of vehicle accidents, including those resulting from drunk driving. If you believe you have grounds for legal action in response to your recent accident, contact us today and schedule a free consultation with a Charlotte drunk driving accident lawyer.