Underage DWI Facts
4 Facts That Young Drivers Should Know About Underage DWI
Drivers between the ages of 16 and 20 are held to different standards in the state of New York. Of course, they must follow all the rules of the road and respect their fellow drivers, but because of their age, the penalties that they face for driving infractions such as underage DWI are slightly different. A DWI conviction can leave a driver of any age with a criminal record, so it is crucial to know not only the criteria of a DWI and related charges but also the possible defenses that an underage drive can utilize in her or his defense. Here are four fundamental facts about drunk driving charges that drivers under the age of 21 should bear in mind when they are pulled over by police officers.
1. “Zero Tolerance” Is a Slight Misnomer.
New York’s Zero Tolerance Law pertains to underage DWI. If you are under the age of 21 and are arrested after driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.02% or higher, you may face disciplinary actions from the Department of Motor Vehicles. However, if you have consumed alcohol and your BAC is between 0 and 0.02%, there should not be a charge. This loophole exists in part because certain religious practices require the drinking of wine and related beverages, and use of substances such as mouthwash can generate a false positive reading.
2. Drinking and Driving Is a Mere Violation—to a Point.
Driving after having consumed alcohol is not a crime but rather a violation under certain circumstances. If a breathalyzer test estimates that your BAC was at or below 0.05%, you will not face any jail time in Buffalo. A lack of jail time does not imply that there are no legal consequences, however; if you are charged with driving after having consumed alcohol, you will be summoned to a DMV administrative hearing, and failure to attend will result in a temporary suspension of your license. At the very least, the DMV will suspend your license for six months, and you will pay a civil penalty of $125. You will have to eventually pay an additional $100 to have your license reinstated. One of our DWI attorneys in Buffalo NY can help you with this matter.
3. You May Still Be Allowed to Drive.
Once you have been convicted of driving after having consumed alcohol, if you have no prior driving offenses or violations, you may be eligible for a conditional license. This type of license would allow you to drive to work, school, and medical appointments. If you are eligible, you may receive a conditional license upon enrolling in an approved drinking driver program (DDP), but it is important to bear in mind that both the program and the license carry additional fees.
4. If Your BAC Is Above 0.05%, There Are Consequences.
If police stop you and find your BAC to be more than 0.05% but less than 0.08%, they may charge you with driving while ability impaired (DWAI), a more serious violation. If you are charged with a DWAI, you will be arrested and summoned to court, and you could face up to 15 days in jail. For this reason, it is imperative that you cooperate with police and with the court, and you may be able to avoid this outcome. If your BAC is above 0.08%, you will be charged with a DWI, a criminal misdemeanor. In that case, the consequences—particularly license revocations—could be higher than they would be for drivers 21 and older.
It is illegal to drive after consuming alcohol, and though the consequences for underage drivers may be less severe in most cases than those for legal adults, DWI-related charges are nothing to be taken lightly. If you believe that your child has received an underage DWI, a DWAI, or a driving after having consumed alcohol charge in error, consult with one of our DWI attorneys in Buffalo NY as soon as you can in order to prevent a conviction.
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