Alcohol and the Law
Getting an alcohol citation can be expensive, embarrassing, and downright frustrating. Many students can easily 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.
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 8-week alcohol education class as well as a 1-on-1 alcohol assessment. A DUI often results in a mandatory 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…..
- REMAIN SILENT. You are not required to answer questions. Think “UNC”: “Uh, No Comment.”
- DO NOT CONSENT TO A SEARCH. If police request to search your person or belongings, state clearly, for the officer and witnesses to hear, “I do not consent to a search.”
- DO NOT PHYSICALLY RESIST A SEARCH. If the officer proceeds to search you or your belongings, repeat “I do not consent to a search.” (If the search is not lawful, it can be suppressed, even if they find contraband.)
- If asked to present identification, DO NOT present a fake ID. If you present proper identification and an officer asks to see your wallet to see if you have a fake ID, you can refuse and then ask the officer if you are free to go.
- DO NOT SUBMIT TO A BREATHALYZER unless you are stopped while driving a car. If you are a passenger in a vehicle, you are NOT REQUIRED to submit to a breathalyzer if asked. You may refuse without legal consequences unless you are underage and visibly intoxicated. If you are approached on the street, you are also NOT REQUIRED to submit to a breathalyzer.
- DO NOT RESIST ARREST. Remain silent. Remain calm. NEVER physically resist a police officer.
- IF ARRESTED: State clearly, for the officer and any witnesses to hear, “I am going to remain silent.” Then REMAIN SILENT.
Some additional things to keep in mind if you are stopped while driving….
- YOU MUST display your driver’s license upon an officer’s request.
- 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).
- If the officer believes you have consumed alcohol, you MUST SUBMIT to a breathalyzer test or your license will be revoked. You have a right to contact an attorney for advice.
- 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:
Summit on Law Enforcement Safety and Drug Policy
It’s not every day that law enforcement and active drug users agree on something, or that Democratic and Republican politicians find common ground. But on Tuesday, June 12th, the Summit on Law Enforcement Safety and Drug Policy forged unlikely collaborations on issues of law enforcement safety in North Carolina. During the event, law enforcement, civil servants, academics, public health workers and concerned community members discussed various topics affecting law enforcement, including the importance of preventing needle-stick injuries to officers and the community, the need to include law enforcement to address the epidemic of prescription drug overdose, and reducing recidivism among prison populations.
Preventing Needle-Sticks to Law Enforcement
The Summit was held at the legislative auditorium in downtown Raleigh. During the first panel of the morning, former officer Jen Earls spoke articulately about her first needle-stick as a rookie cop in Chicago. “Getting stuck by a needle was one of the scariest moments of my career,” said Earls. “I pulled over a woman driving a posh Lexus in a rough neighborhood. She told me her driver’s license was in her purse and when I put my hand in, I got stuck on a needle. I didn’t know what to do and didn’t want to make a big deal out of it because no rookie wants that kind of attention. So I put a band-aid on it and went on with work.”
Conference participants, including Republican Representative Glen Bradley, Democratic Representative Dianne Parfitt, Jon Sanders of the Jon Locke Foundation (a conservative think-tank), and several members of law enforcement, articulated the need for syringe decriminalization laws in North Carolina. Syringe decriminalization would allow residents, whether the state’s 680,000 diabetics or 25,000 urban injection drug users, to carry clean syringes without fear of arrest. Current N.C. laws, which categorize syringe possession as a Class A misdemeanor, discourage people from declaring syringes to an officer during a search and result in 1 in 3 officers receiving a needle-stick during their careers, with 28% receiving multiple sticks. Syringe decriminalization has been shown to reduce the incidence of needle-sticks to officers by 66%, as well as to reduce HIV and hepatitis transmission in communities where it has been enacted.
“Representative Bradley and I are usually on opposite ends of the political spectrum,” said Representative Parfitt during the Summit, “But we are in 100% agreement on this issue [of syringe decriminalization]. I think the will is there and we will look at a way to make this happen.”
“I believe a combination of harm reduction programs and syringe decriminalization will make a vast difference in the lives of law enforcement officers,” explained former officer Earls. “I think officers need to know how to safely handle paraphernalia and needles. They need to know when to wear gloves and when to take extra precautions.”
“There are many costs associated with needle-sticks, such as the lifetime costs of HIV and hepatitis infections that are born by taxpayers for people without insurance,” said Jon Sanders of the John Locke Foundation. “Even diabetics who live in a bad neighborhood are afraid to carry their own needles and they put their own health and the health of law enforcement at risk. Syringe decriminalization is a low cost measure that will lower health costs and raise public health, and for those reasons I support it.”
Following the needle-stick panel, Republican Representatives Leo Daughtry and John Faircloth, as well as Democratic Senator Ed Jones, led a discussion on the need to reduce recidivism rates in North Carolina, which have climbed to nearly 40% for adults in recent years. The legislators championed the Justice Reinvestment Act, passed by the NC General Assembly in spring 2012, which aims to reduce recidivism by allowing parole officers to intervene more quickly to discipline parole violators instead of waiting months while the case lags in the courts and the negative activity continues. “The Justice Reinvestment Act is about taking money that goes into prisons and putting it into rehabilitating people,” explained Representative Daughtry.
“Communities will be safer, law enforcement will be safer, if there are more efforts directed towards opportunities to find housing and jobs [for ex-offenders],” said retired officer Ronald Martin.
“When I started [in law enforcement] 35 years ago I had the idea that we should lock up everybody and throw away the key,” said Senator Jones. “I know now that we can’t do business that way…we have to think about people as being a part of society and not remove them from society…I would ask you to make every effort to see that these [ex-offenders] have a decent starting life when they get out.”
The Representatives spoke alongside Dennis Gaddy, Executive Director of the Community Success Initiative, Bill Rowe, General Counsel and Director of Advocacy at the NC Justice Center, and Jon Sanders of the John Locke Foundation.
Utilizing Law Enforcement to Decrease Overdose Deaths
The final Summit panel addressed law enforcement’s roll in reducing the epidemic of drug overdose deaths. Overdose death from prescription painkillers has recently passed motor vehicle fatalities as the number one cause of accidental death in the United States. North Carolina suffered over 1000 overdose deaths last year alone, mostly from opiate painkillers. Research shows that most people overdose in the presence of another person. However, current laws discourage witnesses to an overdose from calling 911 for fear of drug possession charges. Consequently, many witnesses wait too long to call emergency services, or don’t call at all, often resulting in the death of the person who has overdosed.
Some police departments around the country have begun requiring their officers to carry Narcan, a drug that reverses fatal overdoses. As police are often first to arrive at emergency scenes, especially in rural areas where ambulance arrivals are delayed, law enforcement officers have a unique opportunity to save lives with Narcan.
Lieutenant Detective Pat Glynn, champion of a Narcan program at the Quincy police department in Massachusetts, joined the Summit to discuss the success of the Quincy program.
“A couple years ago we had 47 overdose deaths in Quincy over an 18 month period,” said Lt Det. Glynn. “After we started the Narcan program, from October 2010 to June 2012 overdose deaths dropped to 16, and our officers conducted 90 successful overdose reversals with Narcan…We had a family member feel so comfortable [with police using Narcan] that they pulled up to the parking lot of the police station, knocked on the door and the police were able to come out with Narcan and save the individual’s life. It’s refreshing to see people coming to us and looking at [law enforcement] in a different light.”
In addition to Narcan programs, legislators participating in the Summit discussed 911 Good Samaritan laws, which would grant amnesty to witnesses to an overdose who call emergency services to save a person’s life.
Representative Parfitt offered a personal perspective on overdose. “At one point my 85 year old aunt was admitted to Duke with a drug overdose from Valium…we have to overcome the idea that [drug overdoses happen to] other people, not us…a lot of people are affected because someone inappropriately uses drugs…there are some simple solutions and one thing we can do here is look at the 911 Good Samaritan bill.”
“There is a larger problem with prescription drugs in America than there is with illegal drugs,” said Representative Bradley. “We have here potential programs to help reduce the rate of overdose and death… and one is immunity for emergency 911 calls, the medical amnesty program, and another is the Narcan program to keep Narcan in vehicles so we can respond right away.”
“The Good Samaritan laws and Narcan programs honor life…this is an issue that unites people across the political spectrum and I find that personally refreshing,” said Jon Sanders of the John Locke Foundation.
Comments on the Summit from Participants
“I thought [the Summit] was fantastic. [We] had a great cross section of people from different professional groups, which was really important. The only thing [we] needed was some people who were really not believers so we can hear them and ask what their problems are… I need to find out what is standing in the way, what those road blocks are.”
— Representative Dianne Parfitt, (D)
“[Last year] I said we needed to reach out more to law enforcement [on syringe decriminalization], and that has been done. The foundation is now really solid to walk up to groups who can really make [syringe decriminalization] happen in the legislature, the Sheriffs Association for example, or the Police Benevolence Association… if you get these groups on board not only will you get legislation passed, but you will get it passed overwhelmingly.”
— Representative Glen Bradley, (R)
“I thought it was a remarkable event and a tribute to NCHRC that [they] were able to pull this off. I wish every state would do this. It’s good to raise awareness with legislators and let them know what is going on.”
— Leigh Maddox, retired Captain of Maryland State Police
“If I had had a chance to work with the guys like [Lt Det Glynn], I might have stuck around [the force] longer…nobody is talking about [these law enforcement issues]. It almost has to come from the top down. A lieutenant needs to bring it up and say, here is what we are going to do.”
— Jen Earls, retired Chicago police officer
“There is really no down side to [adopting these measures].”
— Ronald Martin, retired law enforcement detective from the New York police department
“I really enjoyed the forum today, and I learned a lot. [The Summit] will help build agency collaboration on issues we have been fighting for over the last 3-4 yrs at the legislature.”
— Dennis Gaddy, Executive Director of Community Success Initiative
North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition, and Women With A Vision invite you to attend the Southern Harm Reduction and Drug Policy Conference
Event Dates: The event will take place on both September 6th & 7th, 2012
Sign up page: http://tinyurl.com/SHRDPC
Event Price: $55 via Check, $56 via paypal
Scholarships: Scholarships are available to people living in the US South ONLY. If you need a housing or conference fee waiver scholarship, please fill out the registration form and the following form: http://tinyurl.com/SHRDPC-Scholarship
Topics that will be covered:
*Syringe Access in the South
*Advocacy for Legislative Change
*Crack Harm Reduction
*Utilizing Law Enforcement As Advocates
*Sex Worker Harm Reduction
*Faith, Drug Policy and Harm Reduction
*HIV in the South
*Injection Drug Use and Viral Hepatitis in the South
*Marijuana Policy Reform Advocacy and Harm Reduction
*Utilizing the Media for Change
*Health and Harm Reduction for the Transgender Community
*The War on Drugs: A War on the People of the South
*National and Regional Southern Drug Policy Updates
*The Effects of Mass Incarceration on the People of the South
*& Much More!
Syringe Decriminalization: Diabetics Need Syringes Too
As a diabetic, not having a clean syringe available for insulin injections is scary. I remember one time when I was visiting my parents and had forgotten to bring a clean syringe. My blood sugar was rising rapidly and I feared I would not be able to get insulin in my body fast enough to stop it from reaching a potentially deadly level. My partner and I frantically searched my car in hopes that somewhere I had stored a used syringe to be properly disposed of later. I was so frustrated that I had the insulin in my hand but without a means to inject the life-saving medication. When we eventually found one, the idea of a used syringe reentering my body felt strange, even if I knew I was the only person who had ever used it. I wondered how difficult it would be to force myself to use a syringe with an unknown history.
I remember the force I had to use in order to break skin very vividly. I was almost shocked by how painful it was to use this needle that had previously penetrated my skin so effortlessly and painlessly. What was even stranger to me was how painful it was to actually push the insulin through the dull needle. It started as an intense burn just below my skin where I had injected the insulin, but quickly radiated to the surrounding area. The intense burning did not go away quickly. In fact, it still hurt to the touch several days later.
Thankfully, there have been very few times in my life when I did not have access to a clean syringe or have had to re-use my own needle. However, even for those few hours, being in dire need of insulin was terrifying. For many of North Carolina’s over 700,000 diabetics, up to a third of whom do not have health insurance and may not have a prescription for syringes, this predicament is a daily reality. In North Carolina, syringes are considered illegal drug paraphernalia if they are used or intended to be used to inject illegal drugs. Even though this means that it is not illegal to carry a syringe to use to inject insulin, it is often easier for police officers to assume that a person carrying a syringe is breaking the law. Because of this, if a diabetic is stopped by police, he or she is unlikely to admit to carrying a syringe, which puts the officer as risk for an accidental needle-stick during a search. In fact, one study found that one in three cops gets stuck by a syringe during their career. In areas where syringes have been decriminalized, the number of accidental law enforcement sticks has dropped by 66%. It is difficult to argue with that kind of added safety to those who protect us every day.
Decriminalizing syringes, simply making it legal to carry a syringe, without worrying that a police officer will assume that the person with the syringe is breaking the law, would expand syringe access for diabetics and prevent many from having to re-use needles or worse, having to share them and put themselves and others at risk for HIV and hepatitis C.
It is difficult for me to wrap my mind around the fact that providing and obtaining syringes is so difficult in North Carolina. In the moment that I did not have a clean syringe, the desperation that I felt sparked a realization of my privilege. I am extremely lucky to have had access to clean syringes since my diagnosis of diabetes. If I had been stopped by an officer, I could of possibly be thrown in jail for simply trying to stay alive. The stigma surrounding the decriminalization of syringes allows us to overlook the individuals it affects. There are so many of us that rely on syringes to survive, and yet the majority of people don’t realize the importance of access to clean syringes. Having little access to clean syringes puts too many people at risk.
S. Isaac Brock
 Lorentz, J., Hill, J. & Samini, B. “Occupational needle stick injuries in a metropolitan police force,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, vol. 18, 2000, p. 146–150. See also Foundation for AIDS Research (amFAR), “Fact Sheet: Public Safety, Law Enforcement, and Syringe Exchange,” May 2011,
 Groseclose, S.L. et al., “Impact of increased legal access to needles and syringes on practices of injecting-drug users and police officers—Connecticut, 1992-1993,” Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes & Human Retrovirology, vol. 10. no. 1, 1995, p. 82–89.
Podcast 67 – April 17, 2012
Narelle Ellendon, Harm Reduction Coalition
Corey Davis, North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition
Molly Bannerman, Counterfit
Leo Beletsky, Northeastern University School of Law
Establishing a relationship with law enforcement is an essential component of creating a solid harm reduction program. This podcast features conversations on building those relationships. Interviews with Harm Reduction Coalition’s Narelle Ellendon, North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition’s Corey Davis, Molly Bannerman from Counterfit in Toronto, and Leo Beletsky of Northeastern University School of Law. Resources: Harm Reduction Coalition, plus LEAHRN, and info on the North Carolina Law Enforcement Safety and Drug Policy Summit.
Check out this great podcast, it features NCHRC’s Board president Corey Davis. If you are interested in this topic consider joining us at the Law Enforcement and Drug Policy Summit in Raleigh, NC on June 12th, 2012. http://tinyurl.com/NCdrugpolicy