WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – Friday, the ABC Commission and New Hanover County District Attorney’s Office announced a new pilot diversion program that is aimed at stopping underage drinking.
The program allows first-time offenders who are under 21-years-old and charged with crimes such as underage drinking, buying alcohol or using a fake ID to keep their record clean, if they complete certain requirements. Those charged with DWI are not eligible.
According to District Attorney Ben David, the program will kick off in December.
- Requirements include:
- Community service (Number of hours depends on how many violations)
- Spending 2 hours at NHRMC learning about the impact alcohol has on the brain and body
- Participating in a Street Safe Driving Program, which includes simulated impaired driving on a golf cart
- Attending DWI Treatment Court.
“When you get arrested for the first time on an underage drinking offense, we are going to give you the opportunity to keep your good name if you go through several labors to get there,” David explained.
He said parents are also a big part of the program, and encouraged to participate in program requirements.
North Carolina ABC Chairman Jim Gardner said underage drinking is a major problem statewide and it can start with people as young as 11 or 12.
“We lost last year 140 people in this state in underage drinking related accidents. Not necessarily in driving but in a lot of other things that can happen,” Gardner said.
“Drinking and driving is the most deadly weapon each year in the 5th District,” David said. “Alcohol is the number one date rape drug every year and by far the number one reason for young people to be assaulted on a college or high school campus is when someone has been drinking either the defendant or the victim.”
Both hope that through education in the diversion program, young people will learn how dangerous underage drinking is and will stop.
“The diversion program is not to take people who have made a mistake and put something on their record, it’s an opportunity for them through the proper training and education about the dangers of underage drinking and to be able to, after a year of going to court – talking to parents -everything else, have it completely taken off of their record,” Gardner said.
The pilot program was made possible through a grant from the Governor’s Crime Commission. After the one year pilot program, the ABC Commission will evaluate it.
Other pilot programs are taking place in Pitt County, Forsyth County and Watauga County.