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What should you know if you charged with underage drunk driving?

Although the legal drinking age in New York is 21, people under 21 will sometimes decide to drink alcohol. The situation can be made worse if the person gets behind the wheel of a vehicle after drinking. They are subject to the Zero Tolerance Law.

Those under 21 who drive with a BAC of .02 percent to .07 percent will be subject to zero tolerance. When the traffic stop is made, the officer will likely ask the driver to take a breathalyzer test to gauge the BAC. Some might be under the impression that it is within their rights to refuse to take the test. This is not the case and will result in a license revocation of one year. For those whose BAC registers between .02 percent and .07 percent, there will be a violation of zero tolerance and an administrative hearing. If it is higher than .05 percent, but less than .08 percent, it will be a driving while ability is impaired by alcohol violation and will go to criminal court. If it is .08 percent or more, it is a DWI and will go to criminal court.

With an administrative hearing, it is up to the officer to prove that the person charged was the driver; there was a valid request for a test to determine the BAC; the person was under 21; the test was given properly; the test showed .02 percent or more BAC; and the stop was made based on the law. If any of these factors is shown not to be the case, then it could be the foundation for a successful defense. A conviction will result in a driver's license suspension of six months and a civil penalty of $125. To have the license reinstated, it will cost $100. The charge stays on the driver's record for three years or until he or she turns 21, whichever is the longer time-period.

It can be intimidating to be stopped by law enforcement and accused of being a drunk driver regardless of the person's age. This will be worse if the driver is under 21. It is possible that there was a mistake on the part of the officer or the driver has a reasonable excuse for appearing to be under the influence. Even if the driver made a mistake and committed underage drunk driving, there should still be a strong defense against the DWI charges.

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