Zero Tolerance Law

Beginning on November 1, 1996, the “Zero Tolerance Law” was enacted in New York State for drivers under the age of 21. There are several important provisions of this law, the most significant of which is that if a driver under 21 years of age operates a motor vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of more than .02% but not more than .07%, this is a violation of the Zero Tolerance Law, and will result in the requirement to appear at an administrative hearing at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

If at the hearing it is proven that: the driver was under 21; was operating the car; that a chemical test (typically a breathalyzer) revealed a BAC of more than .02% and not more than .07%; and that a lawful stop was made (reasonable suspicion), this will result in an automatic suspension of the driver’s license for 6 months, as well as a civil penalty of $125.00. The charge remains on the license for 3 years or until the age of 21, whichever is longer.

If there was a prior alcohol charge on the driver’s record, the license will be revoked, not suspended, and for one year or until the age of 21, whichever is longer.

A driver under the age of 21 who is charged with operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of more than .05% and less than .08%, will be charged in Criminal Court, (no hearing will be held at the Department of Motor Vehicles unless there is also a refusal to take a chemical test), and will be charged with a DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired), which is a traffic infraction. A DWAI is the lowest possible charge for drunk driving, and it is the only non-criminal drunk driving offense.

A driver under the age of 21 who is charged with operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or more will be charged in Criminal Court with a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), which is a crime (misdemeanor). With a BAC of .18% or more, the charge will be an Aggravated DWI, which is also a crime. On an Aggravated DWI generally, the fines will be at least $1,000, and there is a New York State surcharge of $400.00.

If there are no prior alcohol related charges, a driver may be eligible for a conditional license, allowing him or her to drive to and from work, school, doctor’s appointments or mandatory Court related programs. However, this would also entail attendance and completion of the Drinking Driver Program (DDP), sponsored by the Department of Motor Vehicles.

It is essential that you retain an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable as to all of the provisions of the Zero Tolerance Law to ensure the best possible result available and to advise you during each step of the process. At The Law Office Of Mark A. Siesel in White Plains, New York, we have over 25 years of experience and our trial lawyers will ensure that your rights are protected and the best possible outcome is achieved.