Your Guide to Alcohol and the Law


Getting an alcohol citation can be expensive, embarrassing, and very frustrating.   Many students can minimize their risk of getting a drinking ticket by becoming informed.   So, before you make any decisions about purchasing or drinking alcohol, make sure you know the law; know the consequences; and know your rights.

Know the Law:  

It is ILLEGAL to….

  • Purchase or attempt to purchase alcohol if you are under 21.  This includes attempting to order a drink at a bar or purchasing beer at a grocery store
  • Possess alcohol if you are under 21.  This includes alcohol found in your vehicle or in your hands as you walk down the street, even if it is unopened.   An underage person suspected to be under the influence of alcohol (smells like alcohol, holding an empty Solocup that smells like alcohol, visibly intoxicated, etc) can be charged with underage possession.
  • Use a Fake ID to purchase or attempt to purchase alcohol or to enter an over 21 drinking establishment.  Using a Fake ID to get into a bar can still result in a citation even if no alcoholic drinks are purchased or consumed.
  • Purchase alcohol for an underage friend.
  • Drink and Drive.  If you are 21 and over, this means having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least 0.08. It is also illegal to consume alcohol while driving or to have any alcohol in your system when there is an unsealed alcohol container in the passenger seat.   If you are under 21, you can get a DUI for having any alcohol in your system.
  • Possess an open container of alcohol in any publicly owned area, such as streets, sidewalks, municipal parking lots, public parks, playgrounds, recreational fields, tennis courts, athletic fields, and in any buildings owned by the town.  This law applies to people 21 and over.  If you are under 21, you will be charged with underage possession.  

Know the consequences

Typical consequences for the above offenses include a misdemeanor charge, fines, and court costs.  Additionally, many students are required to complete an 6-week alcohol education class as well as a 1-on-1 alcohol assessment.  A DUI results in a 1-year revocation of your Driver’s License for the first offense.  Depending on the situation, a student may also face imprisonment.   UNC Dean of Students has their own set of consequences for students that may include academic and/or housing probation.

Know your rights

If you are stopped by the police, here’s some helpful advice from UNC Legal Services…..

  1. You are not required to answer questions. You can choose to remain silent. Think “UNC”: “Uh, No Comment.”
  2. If police request to search your person or belongings, and you do not wish to be searched, you may say, “I do not consent to a search.”
  3. If the officer proceeds to search you or your belongings, such as your wallet, backpack, or car, do not resist.  If you do not consent to the search, simply say, “I do not consent to a search.” (If the search is unlawful, it can be suppressed in court.)
  4. If an officer asks for your identification, do not present a fake ID.  If you present proper identification and an officer asks to see your wallet to check if you have a fake ID, you can refuse.  After refusing, you may then ask, “Officer, am I free to go?”
  5. You are not required to submit to a breathalyzer unless you are driving a car.  If you are a passenger in a vehicle, you may refuse a breathalyzer without legal consequences unless you are underage and visibly intoxicated.  If you are approached on the street (e.g. walking home or outside a party), you may refuse a breathalyzer without legal consequences.  After refusing, you may then ask, “Officer, am I free to go?”
  6. NEVER physically resist a police officer.  Simply remain silent and remain calm.
  7. If you are arrested, state clearly for the officer, “I am going to remain silent.” Then remain silent.

Some additional things to keep in mind if you are stopped while driving….

  1. YOU MUST display your driver’s license upon an officer’s request.
  2. YOU MUST write your name (for the purpose of identification) upon an officer’s request and provide your name and address (and the name and address of the auto’s owner).
  3. If the officer pulls you over while driving, you must submit to a breathalyzer test or your license will be revoked. You do have the right to contact an attorney for advice.
  4. You may be asked to perform dexterity tests, but you are not required to do so.  There are no formal legal penalties for refusing to do so.

For more information:

UNC Legal Services http://www.unc.edu/student/orgs/sls/legal:alcohol

Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) https://www.nccrimecontrol.org/Index2.cfm?a=000003,000005,000272,000274

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