New York is known for its harsh penalties for drunk driving, and there is a Zero Tolerance Law for motorists under the age of 21. Even the smallest trace of alcohol in your blood could land you in jail, or at the very least, you are subject to losing your license for a minimum of 6 months. These penalties are enhanced for specific violations of the law, such as refusing a breathalyzer or having a blood alcohol content level (BAC) of more than 0.08%, which is the legal limit for adults of age.
What New York’s “Zero Tolerance” Law Means for Underage Motorists
Underage motorists are prohibited by law from drinking and driving, and that means even a BAC level of 0.02% is against the law. To clarify, that’s often less than half a beer for a young adult of average height and weight. The penalties are more severe the higher your BAC was at the time of arrest, and much steeper penalties apply upon second and subsequent underage DWI convictions.
Penalties are as follows depending on the underage driver’s BAC level:
- BAC of 0.02% to 0.05%: You likely won’t be charged with a DWI, but the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will be notified to determine whether or not your driver’s license should be suspended. At an administrative hearing, which you are not required to testify, the administrative law judge decides whether or not you violated New York’s Zero Tolerance Law. First-time violations of the Zero Tolerance Law can result in losing your license for 6 months to a 1 year, and you will also be subject to pay various fees to the DMV and you’ll likely have to take drug and alcohol awareness courses in order to reinstate your driving privileges. Drivers may be able to get a conditional license for driving to and from work and/or school if they participate in the “Impaired Driver Program.”
- BAC of 0.05 to 0.7%: You may be charged with a DWAI under per se and/or common law DWI. A DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired”) has a maximum fine of $500, a 90-day driver’s license suspension, and as much as 15 days in jail. You may still be eligible for a conditional license to drive to and from work and/or school by participating in the Impaired Driver Program.
- BAC of more than 0.08%: You will be charged with a DWI under per se law and common law, and summoned to appear in criminal court. If convicted, you will lose your license for at least 1 year, and this mark will go on your permanent criminal record. You may also face jail time, a fine of $1,000, a minimum of 6-months of license revocation, and the required installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for at least 1 year.
Protect Your Rights, Reputation & Freedom
If you’ve been charged with an underage DWI, you may still be wondering what the possible consequences could be. That’s because New York’s DWI and DWAI laws are complex and full of nuances. It’s important to contact an experienced attorney who understands New York’s legal system and DWI laws to understand what you’re up against and what your next steps should be.
Underage drunk driving is a serious charge that is leveled at New York’s youngest, most vulnerable citizens. Contact us at the law offices of Martin A. Kron & Associates, P.C. at (212) 235-1525 for a free consultation.