In Arthur L. Pressman Law Blog, DWI, Uncategorized

Minimizing the Consequences of an Underage DWI in New York


New York has a zero-tolerance law for motorists under the age of 21 who drink and drive. While the threshold for blood alcohol content in a standard DWI is 0.08 percent, a driver under the age of 21 can be cited for as little as 0.02 percent BAC. That means that young drivers who might not even be impaired can face criminal charges and administrative penalties.

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Penalties for underage DWI in New York

Penalties for an underage DWI depend on the driver’s BAC:

  • At least 0.02 but not more than 0.07 percent — This may lead to a charge of “driving after having consumed alcohol,” a civil offense heard before an administrative judge of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Punishment is six-month license suspension and a $125 fine. If there is a prior conviction, the driver’s license is revoked for one year or until the driver reaches 21 years of age, whichever is longer.
  • More than 0.05 but less than 0.08 percent — Police have the option to charge “driving while ability is impaired by alcohol” (DWAI), a traffic infraction heard in criminal court. A first-time conviction is punishable by up to 15 days in jail, a maximum $500 fine and a one-year license revocation.
  • Between 0.07 and 0.08 percent — Police will charge DWAI.
  • Equal to or greater than 0.08 percent — This is driving while intoxicated (DWI) per se. A first offense is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, a maximum $1,000 fine and a revocation of your license for one year.

Moreover, since it is illegal for underage persons to consume alcohol, the arrest opens the door to additional charges based on the officer’s observations, such as possession of false identification, distributing alcohol to minors, and minor in possession of alcohol.

How an attorney can help after an arrest for underage DWI in New York

If you or your child has been arrested for a zero-tolerance DWI, there are ways that an experienced attorney can manage the case to mitigate the consequences. In rare cases, a police officer may have lacked reasonable suspicion for a traffic stop, so any evidence gathered is tainted and the charges go away. Authorities also make procedural errors occasionally that compromise forensic evidence, rendering it unreliable or inadmissible.

While such cases are as rare, there are additional pragmatic steps an experienced attorney can take to provide substantial assistance. As cited above, the authorities have discretion as to what offense they charge, and the court has broad discretion as to time served and fines imposed. A skilled attorney can often negotiate an appropriate reduction in charges and penalties. As for license suspensions, your attorney can make an effective argument for a restricted license that will allow a youth to commute to school and/or work.

Contact an experienced Buffalo DWI attorney to protect your rights

If you or your child has been charged with underage DWI, it is important to retain an experienced defense attorney to fight for your best interests. Arthur L. Pressman, Attorney at Law has handled more than 40,000 cases. Call our office at 716-984-1795 or contact us online for experienced legal representation.

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