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Understanding New York’s underage drinking laws

New York has a range of underage drinking laws. Understanding exactly what is and is not permitted under the law is very important regardless of whether someone is trying to avoid legal problems or already facing some.

First of all, there are underage drinking laws that relate to driving and others that do not. Although consumption is not strictly prohibited under the law, possessing alcohol with the intent to consume it is against the law for individuals under the age of 21. Attempting to purchase alcohol by using a fake ID is also illegal in New York and can result in several different consequences, including a fine of $100, mandated alcohol awareness training, community service and the suspension of a driver’s license for 90 days.

For underage New York residents who are caught behind the wheel after having consumed alcohol, the penalties are more severe. New York is known as a zero-tolerance state with regard to underage drinkers who choose to drive. The legal limit for underage drivers is a 0.02 percent blood alcohol content, as opposed to 0.08 for older drivers. Once stopped, a police officer will likely administer a breath test and if the breath test results warrant charges of DWIA or DWI, the underage drinker will automatically have his or her license suspended at the first court appearance and until the case is ultimately resolved. Refusal to take the breath test results in automatic license revocation for a period of one year.

For underage drivers who have a BAC of between 0.02 and 0.07 percent, the offense is a traffic offense which requires an administrative hearing. For levels between 0.05 and .08 percent, the driver may face criminal charges, depending on the discretion of the office. For a BAC of more than 0.08 percent, the driver faces the charge of driving while intoxicated. Even if the driver is charged only with the traffic offense of driving after consuming alcohol, he or she will lose the driver’s license for six months and be required to pay of fine of $125. The other offenses carry even more serious penalties.

Source: Ossining Communities That Care, “Alcohol and the law: Penalties in New York for Underage Drinking,” accessed Sept. 22, 2014