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Is underage drinking ever allowed in North Carolina?

The legal age to purchase and possess alcohol is 21 across the United States. However, each state has its own restrictions when it comes to underage drinking. For instance, some states permit minors to drink alcohol in a private residence, in the presence of their parents. Other states ban all types of underage alcohol consumption outright.

North Carolina is on the more stringent end of the spectrum regarding this area of the law, though it has made some specific exceptions. Today we examine three circumstances under which a minor may drink alcohol in the Tar Heel state:

  • In a cooking class: Minors are allowed to consume alcohol if enrolled in a licensed, accredited culinary program, but only under the direct supervision of the course instructor.
  • For religious reasons: Minors can drink sacramental wine in church or in any space used for religious purposes.
  • For medical purposes: A physician or dentist can administer alcohol to minors for the purpose of medical treatment.

In addition, minors are allowed to possess alcohol as part of their employment. For instance, if a minor works for an employer that sells alcohol, they may haul or distribute such merchandise.


Other types of alcohol possession or consumption by minors are strictly prohibited under North Carolina law. Individuals under 21 can face criminal charges for underage possession of alcohol. Such individuals can face a host of other charges for purchasing alcohol, using fake identification or driving while intoxicated. In addition, any adult who provides alcohol to an underage individual can also face serious penalties.

North Carolina takes underage drinking and alcohol possession seriously. If you or someone you know is facing alcohol-related charges, an attorney versed in underage drinking law can help walk you through your options.

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The Law Office of L. Bryan Smith, P.C.
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