Because Americans are not allowed to legally drink alcohol until they turn 21 years old, accusations of driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New York are made complicated if you are underage. Not only does the permissible blood alcohol content (BAC) drop substantially; the penalties that you can face if you are convicted for underage DWI change, as well.
Having a skilled DWI-defense attorney from Young and Young can protect your driving rights and your future interests.
New York's Zero Tolerance Law Means Lower BAC Limits for Underage Drivers
One of the most important differences that drivers under the age of 21 face in New York is a much lower legal limit for alcohol. While adults can have a BAC of up to 0.08% without per se violating the DWI law – they can still be found guilty of a driving while alcohol impaired (DWAI) with a lower BAC – underage drivers can get into serious legal trouble with BAC levels of only 0.02% or above.
The exact BAC level that you have at the time of your arrest dictates much of what will happen in your case.
BAC Between 0.02% and 0.07%
If you are under 21, get pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving, and are found to have a BAC level of between 0.02% and 0.05%, you will be found in violation of New York's Zero Tolerance policy. This is a civil offense, not a crime, and your case will go through the New York Department of Motor Vehicles.
While the penalties are much lower – a first offense carries a six-month license suspension and a fine of $125 – the expedited process makes defending against the charge more difficult.
BAC Between 0.05% and 0.08%
If your BAC was found to be in between 0.05% and 0.07%, police have the option of charging you with a more traditional DWAI. Convictions for these offenses are actual crimes, and carry a license suspension of one year, up to 15 days in jail, and fines of up to $500.
If your BAC was between 0.07% and 0.08%, police no longer have the option of pursuing a Zero Tolerance offense or a DWAI – they are required to charge you with the more serious offense.
BAC Over 0.08%
Finally, underage drivers who are arrested with a BAC over the legal limit of 0.08% will be charged with a traditional DWI. This carries a yearlong license suspension, up to a year in jail, and fines of up to $1,000.
Driving With Alcohol in the Vehicle
Another common scenario that underage drivers face in New York is when they are pulled over and there is alcohol in the vehicle. In addition to whatever charges you can face for DWI, DWAI, or under the Zero Tolerance policy, you could also face a civil infraction for unlawful possession of alcohol under New York Al. Bev. Con. §65-c. Convictions come with a fine of up to $50, up to 30 hours of community service, and occasionally your required attendance at an alcohol awareness class.
DWI-Defense Lawyers at Young and Young
Convictions for underage drunk driving, no matter what form it takes, can drastically impact your life. Reach out to the DWI-defense attorneys at the New York law office of Young and Young by calling us at (631) 224-7500 or by contacting us online.