Commonly referred to as “zero tolerance law” in New York, an underage driver–who hasn’t turned 21 years old–can be charged with a “per se” DWI if they have a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of at least .02 percent, rather than .08 percent for drivers who are at least 21. The reason why 02 percent is the legal limit for teenagers and young adults is that substances such as mouthwash and medications contain small amounts of alcohol.
Fortunately, a per se DWI is not a criminal offense. So, instead of going through the criminal justice process, underage drivers will be subject to a hearing with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), where a DMV commissioner will determine if they are guilty.
If an underage driver is guilty of a per se DWI with a BAC between .02 and .07 percent, a conviction results in a maximum six-month driver’s license suspension and a civil fine of up to $125. Fortunately, many are eligible for a conditional license–allowing them to travel to an from work and school–if they enroll in the “Implied Driver Program.”
A second offense can lead to a maximum one-year driver’s license suspension or a suspension that lasts until the driver turns 21 years of age, and a civil fine of up to $125. However, an underage driver who commits a second offense cannot obtain a conditional license.
If an underage driver has a BAC of at least .08 percent upon arrest, they can be charged with a DWI or DWAI. The latter means driving while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or both by “any extent.”
A DWAI conviction is punishable by a maximum 15-day jail sentence and fines of up to $500, while a DWI conviction carries a maximum one-year jail term, fines of up to $1,000, and other penalties. Both also result in driver’s license suspension for up to one year.
If you or your child has been charged with a DWI or DWAI in Rochester, contact King Law today at (585) 270-8882 and request a free case review.