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New York’s Zero Tolerance DWI Law

The legal age to purchase and possess alcoholic beverages in the state of New York is 21. For a person under the age of 21 operating a motor vehicle, the legal limit is a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .02. A BAC of .02 is such a low standard that even one drink would put most young people over the legal limit.

This “zero tolerance” law was enacted on Nov. 1, 1996. Under this statute, it is against the law for a person under the age of 21 to consume alcohol and operate a motor vehicle.

  • If the person’s BAC is between .02 percent and .07 percent, the person will be charged with the traffic offense of “driving after having consumed alcohol.” The driver will be provided with a notice to appear for a hearing before an administrative law judge of the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • If the person has a BAC of .06 percent or .07 percent, the law enforcement officer will have the option of charging the person with driving while ability is impaired by alcohol (DWAI) which can be prosecuted in criminal court.
  • If the person has a BAC of .08 percent or greater, the person will be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor for driving with a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or greater.

During a traffic stop, if a law enforcement officer suspects a person under the age of 21 has consumed alcohol, but the officer does not have probable cause that the driver is driving while intoxicated or while impaired, the officer can “temporarily detain” the driver for the purpose of taking a breathalyzer test. The driver is usually taken to the police station for the breathalyzer test.

Nassau County Zero Tolerance Defense Attorney

For any zero tolerance charge in Nassau County or Long Island, call Stephanie Selloni. Law Office of Stephanie Selloni focuses on criminal cases in Garden City, Hempstead, Mineola, Westbury and Floral Park. Stephanie Selloni also represents clients on these charges throughout the five boroughs of New York City. As an experienced DWI attorney, Stephanie Selloni can help a driver under the age of 21 protect his or her driving record and criminal record from these serious charges with harsh consequences.

Information About New York’s Zero Tolerance Law

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The Hearing Before the Administrative Law Judge

At the hearing before the administrative law judge, the law enforcement officer must appear and prove by clear and convincing evidence, that:

  • The officer made a lawful stop of the vehicle
  • The accused had operated a motor vehicle
  • The person was under the age of 21 at the time of the incident
  • The officer made a lawful and valid request for the driver to submit to a chemical test, such as a breath test
  • The chemical test was properly administered
  • The test showed the driver had consumed alcohol with a BAC reading of .02 percent or more

The driver is entitled to be represented by a DWI defense attorney who can provide evidence or argument in his or her defense. The driver even has a right to call witnesses in his or her defense. After the hearing, the law enforcement officer has the burden of proving each and every element of the offense beyond a preponderance of the evidence. If the administrative law judge finds the officer has met this burden, a suspension will be imposed.

If the driver fails to appear at the hearing, a suspension or revocation will be entered. If the arresting officer fails to appear at the hearing, the administrative law judge may dismiss the charge.

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Consequences of the Administrative Suspension for Zero Tolerance

The administrative law judge can suspend the license for six months and require the driver to pay a civil penalty of $125. The driver must pay an additional $100 fee when the license is returned. If the driver has any prior alcohol-related traffic offenses on his or her driving record, the license will be revoked for one year or until the driver reaches the age of 21, whichever is longer. The suspension will stay on the driving record for three years or until the driver is 21, whichever is longer.

If the driver’s license is suspended under this law, and the driver does not have any prior alcohol-related convictions on his or her license, he or she may be eligible for a conditional license. The driver must enroll in and complete the State Drinking Drivers Program before obtaining the conditional license. The conditional license allows the young person to drive for work and school and other essential places, but it is not the same as an unrestricted driver license.

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License Suspension or Revocation for a Person Under 21

A license suspension or revocation will occur if the person is convicted of committing any of the following events while under the age of 21:

  • Aggravated DWI
  • DWI
  • DWAI

The person must serve the entire suspension or revocation time, even after completing an approved Drinking Driver Program before the suspension or revocation would end.

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Consequences of a Person Under 21 Refusing the Chemical Testing

The consequences of refusing a chemical test is a revocation that is separate from, and in addition to, those for alcohol or drug-related violations. In these cases, the arresting officer will ask the person under 21 to take a chemical test, such as a breathalyzer. The breathalyzer machine in New York estimates the driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). The BAC is an estimate of the percentage of alcohol in the person’s blood. The person’s license will be suspended if he or she is arrested for DWI, DWAI, Zero Tolerance or any other alcohol or drug-related charge and refuses to take a chemical test.

If the administrative law judge later confirms the refusal at a DMV hearing, the driver’s license will be revoked for at least one year. In addition, the driver will be assessed a civil penalty of at least $500.

If the driver is under age 21 when he or she refuses to take a test, the person’s license will be revoked for at least one year.

If the driver is under the age of 21 and a second refusal occurs within five years, the license revocation will be for at least one year or until the driver turns 21, whichever is longer.

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Criminal Charges for DWAI or DWI

In addition to the administrative suspension, the arresting officer can bring criminal charges. For instance, if the BAC is .06 percent to .07 percent, the person can be charged with the offense of driving while ability is impaired by alcohol. DWAI is a criminal offense dealt with in criminal court.

If the young person has a BAC is .08 percent or more, the charge will be driving while intoxicated. DWI is a criminal offense dealt with in criminal court.

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Finding a Zero Tolerance DWI Attorney for Drivers Under 21

If you were accused under New York’s Zero Tolerance law, contact a criminal defense attorney at Law Office of Stephanie Selloni. Call (516) 972-1212 to discuss zero tolerance drunk driving cases in Nassau County and throughout Long Island. Find out why you should fight the suspension at the administrative hearing and how an attorney can help you protect your rights.