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What Are the Penalties for Underage Drunk Driving in New York?

Like its neighbor New Jersey, New York has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drunk driving. It is not legal for someone to purchase alcohol until they are 21, and the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limits are much stricter than for adults. That said, violations in New York are still considered civil offenses, not criminal ones, and cases are processed through the New York Department of Motor Vehicles. With over thirty years of experience, a New City DWI defense attorney will be there for you if a minor in your family is facing a DWI charge, so don’t hesitate to call us now.

How Does New York Enforce Underage Drunk Driving Laws?

New York imposes specific and heavy penalties for underage drunk driving. First of all, before we even get to the charges that involve alcohol consumption, driving with alcohol located in the vehicle is grounds for a civil offense of unlawful possession of alcohol.

Adults are allowed to have a BAC of up to 0.08%, unless a police officer considers them to be driving in an impaired state regardless of their BAC, as police officers across the United States are allowed to base a DWAI charge (driving while abilities impaired) on observable factors like the driver’s behavior. Note that this is also true for minors, who can also be charged with a DWI if the officer perceives them to be driving unusually or dangerously as though intoxicated.

By contrast, however, any BAC in a minor at all (between 0.02% and 0.07%) is a chargeable offense, particularly if so while driving. A BAC between 0.02 and 0.05% is considered a zero-tolerance offense, meaning a civil offense. The state’s expedited process for these cases can make setting up a defense more difficult. If found guilty, punishments for a first offense include having their license suspended for six months, being fined $125, and being charged a $50 suspension fee by the DMV.

Should the minor’s BAC be between 0.05% and 0.07%, police will be able to charge them a DWAI, just as any adult would, with the increased penalties that follow adult crimes. Not only may the accused’s license be suspended for one year if found guilty, they might also spend up to 15 days in jail and fines as high as $500. It’s even worse if the underage driver’s BAC is between 0.07% and 0.08%, as then the police are required to charge them with the graver offense.

If the minor has a BAC above 0.08%, the penalties continue to multiply. Instead of a DWAI, the underaged driver may be charged with DWI. If found guilty, their license may be suspended for one year, they may go to jail for one year, and they may be fined as much as $1,000.

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