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How does New York handle underage drunk driving?


With school out, there are more young people out and about across New York State. While most will obey the law, there will be some who are accused of making the mistake of underage drunk driving. This is treated very seriously in the state, so much so that there is a "zero tolerance" law specifically aimed at those under age 21 who drink and drive. When a person is charged with underage drunk driving, there are a multitude of penalties that can be assessed, such as a license suspension. It is essential to lodge a strong defense against these charges.

Anyone under 21 who drives with a blood-alcohol concentration of a minimum of .02 percent and a maximum of .07 percent will fall under this law. When a driver under 21 is stopped by law enforcement and it is believed that the driver drank alcohol, a breath test will be given to determine the BAC. Refusing a breath test will result in a license suspension of a minimum of one year.

For drivers who have a BAC of .02 percent and up to .07 percent, there will be an administrative hearing. For .05 percent but less than .08 percent, it will be sent to criminal court and the charge will be driving while ability is impaired by alcohol. If it is .08 percent or more, there will be a DWI charge and it will be held in criminal court.

While these charges are intimidating, those who are facing them need to remember that the law enforcement officer has certain protocol to follow. The officer is required to show that the person under 21 was operating the vehicle; that there was a valid request for a chemical test; that the test was given correctly; that the test showed that there was a minimum of .02 percent BAC; and that the traffic stop was made within the confines of the law.

There cannot be jail time for a conviction, but the driver's license will be suspended for a minimum of six months and there will be a fine of $125. It costs $100 to get the license reinstated. The charge remains on the person's record for three years or until he or she turns 21, whichever comes later. With prior alcohol offenses, the license will be revoked for one year or until the person turns 21, whichever comes later. Since the penalties for underage DWI are so significant, it is imperative to have a strong defense when facing these charges. The first call that should be made after the arrest is to a qualified legal professional experienced in DWI cases.

Source: safeny.ny.gov, "New York's Zero Tolerance Law," accessed on July 11, 2017

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