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Drunk driving charges in New York can result in a jail or a prison sentence, substantial fines, suspension or revocation of driving privileges and other penalties upon conviction. The state's Zero Tolerance law imposes penalties on underage drivers who have been drinking even though they might not be legally intoxicated and are not being charged with a crime.

An individual of any age who has a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher is legally intoxicated under state law and can be charged with driving while intoxicated. A driver whose BAC level is between .05 percent and less than .08 percent can be charged with driving while impaired. The rules change when the driver is younger than 21 years of age.

Under the Zero Tolerance law, a police officer is authorized to detain an underage driver if the officer believes that the he or she consumed alcohol. If a breath test reveals a BAC of .02 or more, then the driver can be charged with driving after consuming alcohol. Although it is not a violation of the criminal law as is drunk driving, the driver must appear before at an administrative hearing at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

At the hearing, an administrative law judge will hear testimony from the police officer and evidence presented by the defense attorney before deciding if there is sufficient evidence to prove that the underage driver had been drinking.

Driving after consuming alcohol is not a crime, but the administrative law judge may impose a $125 civil penalty and suspend the individual's license to driver for six months. A prior alcohol-related offense will result in a license revocation for one year or until the driver turns 21 years of age, whichever is longer.

The Zero Tolerance law allows police to charge an underage driver with driving while impaired if the person's BAC level is .05 percent or more and less than .08 percent. If an underage motorist has a BAC level that is .08 percent or more, the police can file DUI charges.

This post is a brief summary of only some aspects of the Zero Tolerance law in New York. Driving while intoxicated is a complex area of the law that can have far-reaching consequences for a person who is convicted. A person in need of legal advice concerning DUI charges or the Zero Tolerance law should obtain it from an attorney.

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