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Drivers under age 21 face harsher DWI penalties

When someone is arrested for drinking and driving, they can face harsh penalties. The penalties are harsher, however, if the accused driver is under the age of 21. In these situations, the accused faces penalties for an offense that a driver over 21 would not be arrested for, simply for being underage.

New York State has a Zero Tolerance Law, which applies to drivers under the age of 21 who operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .02 of one percent or more but not more than .07 of one percent. If a police officer pulls over a driver that he deems to be younger than 21 that also appears to have consumed alcohol, the driver will be temporarily detained and given a breathalyzer test. Refusing to take a breath test exposes the driver to having his license taken away for at least a year.

A driver will be charged with driving after having consumed alcohol if his BAC is more than .02 percent but less than .07 percent. However, the police officer has the option of charging the driver with driving while ability is impaired by alcohol if his BAC is .05 percent or .06 percent. If the driver’s BAC is more than .07 percent, he will be charged with driving while ability is impaired by alcohol, and if it is .08 percent or more, he will be charged with driving while intoxicated. If charged with either DWAI or DWI, the driver will be arrested and he will have to attend criminal court instead of traffic court.

These offenses can lead to lengthy license suspensions or even revocation, costly civil penalties and fees, and charges on the driver’s record. Underage drivers charged with any of the above drinking and driving offenses would be wise to contact an experienced criminal attorney. A lawyer may be able help reduce some of the fees and penalties and, if there are no prior alcohol-related convictions on the accused’s license, a lawyer may be able to help determine the driver’s eligibility for a conditional license.

Source: Suffolk County Government, “NYS Zero Tolerance Law,” accessed on Nov. 3, 2014