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New York Zero Tolerance

New York State DWI Zero Tolerance Law

Are you under 21 years old? The Zero Tolerance Law applies to a person under age 21 who operates a motor vehicle with a BAC of not less than 0.02%, nor more than 0.07%, regardless of whether or not the person is legally impaired at all.

If you are pulled over in your car by a police officer, and then the police officer determines that you are under 21 and have consumed alcohol, you will be temporarily detained for the purpose of taking a breathalyzer test to determine your BAC level. This usually occurs at the police station.

With a BAC level of not less than 0.02%, nor more than 0.05%, you will not be charged with DWI, but you will be referred to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to determine whether or not your license should be suspended for violating the Zero Tolerance Law. You will be provided with a notice to appear for a hearing before an administrative law judge of the DMV. It is during this hearing that a police officer must prove that there was a lawful vehicle stop, that you were driving the vehicle, that you were under 21 at the time of the offense, that the request to take a BAC test was proper, that the BAC test was correctly administered, and that either your BAC was 0.02% or more at the time you were driving or that you refused the breath test.

After testimony is taken from the police officer(s) involved and from you (if you wish, but you are not required to testify) and/or your witnesses, the administrative law judge will decide whether or not a Zero Tolerance violation occurred and if a refusal occurred (if applicable). If such findings are made, you will lose your license. For a first-time Zero Tolerance violation, you will lose your license for six months. If you are under 21 and refused a breathalyzer test, your license will be revoked for at least one year. At the very least, you will have to pay various civil fees to the DMV before you are granted back your driving privileges.

With a BAC level of more than 0.05% but less than 0.08%, the police will have the option of charging you with DWAI and/or common law DWI.  With a BAC level of more than 0.08%, you will be charged with DWI under both the per se law and common law.  In such a case, you will be summoned to appear in criminal court for these charges.  If you are convicted of DWI or DWAI and were under 21 years old at the time of committing the offense, you will lose your license for at least one year.

New York State’s Zero Tolerance Law affects our youngest and most vulnerable citizens. If you or someone you love have been charged under the Zero Tolerance Law, call or email me, Tom Anelli, the DWI Guy, now. Our team of experienced and knowledgeable New York State DWI defense attorneys can help minimize the adverse impact these charges may cause to a young life.

Impaired Underage Drivers Face Unique Charges

New York is known for its tough DWI laws, which carry steep penalties for convicted drivers. Driving While Intoxicated, also called drunk driving, is a serious charge in New York. This offense is legally defined by how much alcohol is in a driver’s system. That is, if a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC level) is at a certain limit, her or she is legally considered intoxicated.  Intoxicated driving is illegal in New York, as it is in every other state.

The “per se” DWI charge is the basic DWI charge, where a driver operates a motor vehicle with a BAC level of at least 0.08%.  Upon conviction for this DWI, a driver has a permanent criminal record and will face the following charges: up to 1 year in jail; a maximum fine of $1,000 in addition to a mandatory surcharge of $400; a minimum of a 6-month license revocation; and the required installation/maintenance of ignition interlock device for 1 year.  The similar but lesser included charge of DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) applies to drivers with a BAC between 0.05% and 0.07%.  Penalties for a DWAI include: a maximum fine of $500; a 90-day driver’s license suspension; and up to 15 days in jail.

New York makes a distinction between intoxicated/impaired drivers above the age of 21 and those less than 21 years old. Termed the Zero Tolerance Law, this law applies to drivers under the age of 21 who operate a motor vehicle with a BAC between 0.02% and 0.07%. The purpose of the Zero Tolerance Law is to discourage drivers under 21 from drinking and driving. Underage drinking is a national problem that legislatures have been trying to get a handle on for many years. Zero Tolerance laws penalize underage drinkers who get behind the wheel by lowering the standard intoxication limit for those underage. 

While the Zero Tolerance Law does not create a DWI charge for driving with a 0.02% – 0.07% BAC, it does create a specific offense for that level of impairment. Any driver under 21 with a BAC between 0.02% and 0.07% can face the charge of driving after having consumed alcohol. This offense would be settled in an administrative hearing, not criminal court. Penalties for this offense do not include jail time, but do include a driver’s license suspension for at least six months, and fines. Additionally, the offense remains on the driver’s record for three years, or until they turn 21, whichever is longer. Of course, underage drivers can also be charged with DWI or DWAI.

Additional Details on Zero Tolerance

A quick skim of the news reveals a frightening trend: underage drivers are consistently driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Often these members of the “underage crowd” make headlines because they are high-profile celebrities. Other times it is the sheer youth of the driver, and the severity of the incident that inspires national coverage. Either way, the daily news is bountiful with stories of underage DUI charges.

One example of a recent report that combines excessiveness, youth, and celebrity status is the story of Farrah Abraham. Ms. Abraham rose to fame after appearing on MTV’s reality television show Teen Mom, and authoring several books. According to the New York Daily News, The twenty year-old mother was arrested in Omaha, Nebraska, after nearly running into a law enforcement vehicle attempting a wide turn. Law enforcement officers stopped Ms. Abraham and administered a breathalyzer test. Ms. Abraham’s blood alcohol level (BAC) indicated that she had been driving at nearly twice the legal limit in that state. Needless to say, Ms. Abraham was arrested for violating DUI laws.

Had Ms. Abraham registered the same BAC in New York State, she likely would have been driving with a BAC over seven times the legal limit for underage drivers. New York has a Zero Tolerance policy when it comes to drivers under the age of 21 who drive under the influence, and DUI laws differ for the underage accordingly. In New York State, a driver is deemed to violate DUI laws when he or she drives with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. However, if the driver is under 21 years old, special laws apply if his or her BAC is between 0.02% and 0.05%.

If an underage driver registers a BAC between 0.02% and 0.05% he or she will not be charged with a DUI, but may be subject to a license suspension for violating the Zero Tolerance law. The New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee notes that the 0.02% limit is meant to target underage drivers who have willfully consumed alcohol, rather than those who have ingested certain medicines with traces of alcohol, or who have partaken in religious or familial ceremonies or traditions.

If an underage driver registers a BAC between 0.05% and 0.08%, he or she may be subject to penalties for Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) or common law DWI. If an underage driver registers a BAC over 0.08%, he or she may be charged with both common law DWI and per se DWI, and may be subject to a license suspension for one year.

Underage drivers face stricter standards of impairment, and can face serious penalties for such charges. If you or a loved one faces Zero Tolerance or other DWI-related charges, call the experienced New York DWI attorneys at Anelli Xavier. Call or contact us online for a free case evaluation today.

DISCLAIMER: The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem.  Corporate offices for Anelli Xavier are located at 269 W. Jefferson St.; Syracuse, New York 13202; Telephone No.: (315) 473-0899.  Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.  Attorney Advertising.