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What if I'm underage and get arrested for drunk driving?

New Yorkers may be familiar with drunk driving laws, the legal limit, breathalyzer tests and license suspension periods. However, drinking and driving laws for those under the legal drinking age of 21 are quite different. So, what happens if an underage person is arrested for drunk driving?

The interesting thing about underage drinking and driving is that being under the legal limit of 0.08 BAC does not stop the police from charging one for drunk driving. So, even if an underage person only has a drink or two, they could still be arrested for drunk driving. This is because there is an entirely different set of laws that govern underage drinking.

The idea is to crack down on the high rate of alcohol involved traffic accidents involving young drivers. Research shows that alcohol related motor vehicle fatalities are quite high amongst drivers aged 15 to 20.

As such, all states have enacted zero tolerance laws for underage drinking and driving. These zero tolerance laws make it a criminal DUI offense to drive with even a small amount of alcohol in one's system, if one is under age.

As a result, a BAC of 0.02 or higher is considered a per se offense. This means that the prosecutor does not have to prove intoxication, only that a young driver was above the stated limit.

These strict zero tolerance policies also carry with them the potential for harsh penalties and lasting consequences, including substantial fines, license suspensions or jail time. In addition to a criminal record that could impact employment or higher education, the consequences can include making it harder or more expensive to get car insurance. If one is underage and charged with DUI, it is essential to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to help defend against these charges and potential consequences.

Source:, "Underage DUI: Zero Tolerance Laws," accessed on May 15, 2018

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