The state of New York seeks to discourage drivers under 21 from drinking and driving. Therefore, New York State created the Zero Tolerance Law, and pursuant to this law any licensed driver under the age of 21 who is found to be driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .02% to .07% faces administrative penalties from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Since these are administrative penalties you will not face any jail time. These penalties are separate from any driving while intoxicated (DWI) criminal charges that the underage driver may face.
The Traffic Stop
In each case, everything begins with a traffic stop. If a police officer lawfully stops your vehicle and he suspects that you are driving under the influence, you can be arrested. After finding that you are under the age of 21 from your driver's license, you will be deemed to have violated the Zero Tolerance Law. Normally after an arrest, you are taken back to the police station to conduct a breath test.
Refusing the Breath Test
If you choose to refuse to take a breath or chemical test and provide your BAC, you violate New York's implied consent law, which requires you to submit to these tests when law enforcement requests one. There will be a refusal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge of the DMV, and if the judge determines that the police were within their rights to have you submit to a chemical test, and since you were under 21 years of age at the time of the offense your driver's license will be revoked for at least one year. You will need to pay a $300 civil penalty fee and a $100 re-application license fee to the DMV. If this is your second refusal offense the civil penalty fee is raised to $750.
If Your BAC is Between .02% and .07%
If you take a breath or chemical test and the results show that your BAC is between .02% and .07% you can be charged with violating New York's Zero Tolerance Law.
On the good side, this is an administrative offense, not a criminal one. This means that your case goes before an administrative law judge at the DMV, and you cannot go to jail if you lose your case.
At the DMV hearing, the arresting officer will attest to what happened during the arrest and you or your attorney will have the opportunity to raise a defense.
If you lose your case, you will pay a civil fine of $125 and your driver's license will be suspended for six months. To get your license reinstated, it costs another $100. If this is your second violation of the Zero Tolerance Law your driver's license will be revoked for one year, or until you are the age of 21.
If Your BAC is Between .05% and .07%
If your BAC is found to be between .05% and .07%, New York prosecutors have the option of charging you with the traffic infraction of driving while ability impaired (DWAI). This takes your case into the court system, where the penalties of a conviction are higher.
If Your BAC is .08% or Above
Finally, if your BAC is .08% or above, you will be charged with DWI and this is a crime. Therefore you face going to jail, revocation of your driver's license and higher fines.
DUI-Defense Attorney in Hudson Valley: Kenneth Puig
Kenneth Puig is a DWI-defense attorney that serves underage drivers who have been accused of drunk driving in the Hudson Valley. Contact him online or call his law office at (845) 787-4757.