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Drivers in Rockland County and other parts of New York, who have not reached 21 years of age, are held to a different set of rules if they are stopped by police. If a police officer believes an underage driver has consumed alcohol, the individual may be detained and asked to submit to a breath test to measure his or her BAC level.

Although the legal limit for intoxication in the state is 0.08 percent, for someone under age 21, the law imposes a different standard. An underage driver, whose BAC level is between 0.02 percent and 0.07 percent, can be charged with driving after consuming alcohol. This charge is a violation as opposed to driving while intoxicated which is a misdemeanor.

Instead of going to court, as would happen with an adult facing a drunk driving charge, a traffic offense of driving after consuming alcohol is heard by an administrative law judge at the department of motor vehicles. The penalty, if the judge finds that the driver committed the offense, is a civil penalty of $125 and a six-month license suspension. License reinstatement at the end of the six-month suspension costs an additional $100. A prior alcohol-related charge will result in the revocation, instead of suspension, of the person's driver's license for at least one year or until the individual reaches 21 years of age, or whichever is longer.

Being underage does not mean that police cannot charge a person with operating under the influence or drunk driving. If an underage individual's BAC level is less than 0.08 percent, but is more than 0.05 percent, police have the option to charge the person in the criminal courts with driving while impaired. If the level is at or above the legal limit, police will normally file drunk driving charges regardless of the person's age.

State DWI laws are complex and expose a person to significant penalties and consequences in the event of a conviction. The purpose of this post is to over an overview of this particular area of the law, but it is not intended to be relied upon as legal advice. A person charged with underage DUI or other OUI offense should seek the assistance of a criminal law attorney.

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