Underage DWI and New York Zero Tolerance Laws

December 11, 2014

If you’re under 21 at the time of your arrest for an alcohol-related driving offense, the penalties for a conviction may vary greatly from the same conviction for someone over 21.  That only makes sense tho, right? The law says you can’t drink at all. So by drinking and driving, you’re breaking even more laws than the person over 21 who also made the poor choice to drink and drive!  But believe it or not, your age may actually work to your advantage if you do get arrested for DWI under 21!

Generally speaking, there are two ways an underage DWI can go down: it can be handled 1) in the criminal courts (as an underage/possible youthful offender), or 2) at the administrative/DMV level (as a Zero Tolerance violation).  This blog entry discusses only Zero Tolerance laws.

How your case is ultimately resolved will depend on many factors, including what you are initially charged with, obviously!  A violation of the Zero Tolerance Law (VTL 1192-a) is a chargeable offense (if your BAC at the time you were driving was between .02 and .07).  However, most law enforcement agencies (at least most of the ones I deal with on a regular basis) rarely, if ever, charge a violation of 1192-a.  They will instead issue a violation of Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) in violation of VTL 1192(1) and let the chips fall where they may.  In that situation, it is up to your attorney to convince the prosecutor why you should be granted the enormous break of a Zero Tolerance adjudicationrather than an alcohol related conviction.

The attorneys at Catalano & Carpenter LLP have obtained Zero Tolerance adjudications for many drivers under the age of 21 who were initially charged with violations of VTL 1192.FN  If you are under 21 and have been arrested for an alcohol related driving offense, call us today to discuss your options and whether you may be appropriate for a Zero Tolerance adjudication (please note that if your BAC is anywhere near your age, you’re not getting a Zero Tolerance offer, plain and simple; but other favorable dispositions may still be available).

So what is so great about a Zero Tolerance adjudication?  Plenty!  Below is a list of just what a Zero Tolerance adjudication involves in terms of penalties and other sanctions.  Keep in mind this list applies only to Zero Tolerance adjudications (not criminal convictions).

Prompt Suspension Law (“suspension pending prosecution”)

  1. In the case of underage offenders charged with a violation of VTL 1192(1) – DWAI – only, the court will suspended the person’s license/permit/driving privileges at the first appearance (as opposed to a person over 21 who cannot be suspended pending prosecution unless there is proof of a BAC of .08 or higher, i.e., DWI or Aggravated DWI only).
  1. Conversely, the license/permit/driving privileges of a person charged with a violation of VTL 1192-a (the Zero Tolerance Law) only cannot be suspended at arraignment, or where your attorney has worked out a Zero Tolerance resolution with the prosecutor prior to your first appearance. (Clearly then it is to your advantage to call us immediately after your arrest to provide us an opportunity to resolve your case prior to arraignment).

Zero Tolerance Penalties/Sanctions

  1. First Offense
  2. NOT a criminal conviction;
  3. License/permit/driving privileges suspended for 6 months;
  4.     If a refusal (first offense), revoked for at least one year;
  5. Registration may be suspended for 6 months;
  6. $125 civil penalty;
  7. Likely eligible for Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and a conditional license; and
  8. Successful completion of DDP may result in early termination of 6 month suspension
  1. Second Offense***
  2. NOT a criminal conviction;
  3. License/permit/driving privileges revoked for at least one (1) year or until the person reaches the age of 21, whichever is longer;
  4.     If a refusal (second offense); revoked for at least one (1) year or until the person reaches the age of 21, whichever is longer.
  5. Registration may be revoked for at least one (1) year or until the person reaches the age of 21, whichever is longer;
  6. $125 civil penalty;
  7. NOT eligible for DDP or conditional license.

***Keep in mind, however, that if you’ve already been permitted one Zero Tolerance adjudication by the prosecutor, the odds of a second within such a short period of time are very slim!

Records are Sealed/Destroyed

  1. All records of a Zero Tolerance adjudication are deemed destroyed after 3 years from the date of a hearing resulting in a Zero Tolerance finding or entry of waiver of hearing, or when the person reaches the age of 21,whichever is longer.

A Zero Tolerance adjudication is a great resolution in those cases where a dismissal, ACD, or plea to a lesser traffic violation is not warranted or possible (which is the case in many if not most DWI prosecutions).  The knowledgeable and skilled DWI defense attorneys at Catalano & Carpenter LLP know the ins and outs of obtaining a Zero Tolerance offer.  If you have been arrested for an alcohol related offense and are under 21, call us today at (845) 454-1919 or visit us atwww.CatalanoCarpenter.com to schedule a free consultation.  The sooner you call the sooner we can help.

For more information about Zero Tolerance Laws and penalties, visit the following sites:

Safe NY – http://www.safeny.ny.gov/zero-tol.htm

NYS DMV – http://dmv.ny.gov/tickets/penalties-alcohol-or-drug-related-violations

FN Prior outcomes do not guarantee future results