New York State Zero Tolerance Law on DWI

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In 1910, New York became one of the first states in the U.S. to pass a DWI law.

At that time, the general consensus was that a driver was considered drunk with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .15 percent.

Even then, prosecution was difficult as there was little in the way of scientific evidence.

Today, a BAC of .08 percent or above is considered a DWI in most cases.

There are exceptions, however, when a BAC of as little as .02 percent becomes a drunk driving offense.

As of 1996, New York has a zero tolerance law.

Zero tolerance applies to drivers who drink and are under 21 years old

The legal drinking age in New York and every other state is 21. If you drink and are younger than 21, you are already in violation of the law.

If you drink and drive, and your BAC is anywhere between .02 and .07 percent, you are also in violation of the zero tolerance statute.

Why not .0, since it is “zero” tolerance?

When passing the law, the legislature realized that certain items, such as mouthwash and cough medications, may contain alcohol, or that small amounts of alcohol may have been part of family functions or religious ceremonies.

If you have been drinking, or the police suspect that you are intoxicated and you are pulled over, you will be required to take a breathalyzer test to determine your BAC.

If you refuse to take the test, your license will be revoked for at least one year under the zero tolerance law.

Since the passage of zero tolerance, underage drinking and driving has decreased by more than 50 percent; yet the fact remains that inexperienced, younger drivers are more likely to experience fatal accidents when operating a vehicle while intoxicated.

Zero tolerance adds up to serious penalties

Whether you need to drive to work or to school, imagine life without a license.

If you are charged with a zero tolerance offense with a BAC of at least .02 and not more than .07, you are considered to have been “driving after having consumed alcohol” and will have to appear for an Administrative Hearing.

Penalties for this change include:

      • For a first offense: A fine of $125, a six-month license suspension and a $100 license reinstatement fee.
      • For a second alcohol-related offense: A fine of $125, a license revocation of one year or until you reach the age of 21 (whichever is longer) and a $100 license reinstatement fee.

If your BAC is at least .05 percent and not more than .07 percent, the police may choose to charge you with the more serious offense of “driving while ability is impaired by alcohol,” or DWAI and you will go to criminal court.

Any violation that includes a BAC of .08 or more is a far more serious offense and you will be charged with and arrested for a DWI.

We are skilled attorneys who advocate for young people charged with a zero tolerance violation

We agree that those under 21 should not drink and drive. However, we also know that there are times when the charge is questionable or sobriety test results may be inaccurate.

If you or your family member has been charged with or arrested for underage drinking and driving, please contact us or call our office at (914) 968-5800 to learn about how our Yonkers DWI lawyers can help.

We serve clients in Yonkers and the Bronx and throughout Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Putnam, Orange and Ulster counties.