Driving while intoxicated or impaired is a serious problem responsible for much property damage and many crashes, injuries and even fatalities each year. You face legal consequences for a DWI, and if you are a driver under the age of 21 you are subject to additional provisions of the law.

New York State enacts strict penalties for underage drivers who violate the Zero Tolerance Law.

What is the Zero Tolerance Law?

Driving while intoxicated or impaired carries severe consequences, including suspension of your license, fines and surcharges, a probationary period and even jail time. However, the law in New York State imposes even stricter penalties on drivers under the age of 21. The reason behind this is to dissuade drinking and driving, since underage drivers are responsible for a disproportionate percentage of DWI fatalities.

The Zero Tolerance law makes it illegal for a driver under the age of 21 to consume any alcohol prior to taking the wheel of a vehicle. Rather than the standard 0.08% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit that applies to those over the age of 21, underage drivers who drive with a 0.02% to 0.07% BAC violate the Zero Tolerance Law. This means that if you are driving with any measurable BAC, you must go to a DMV hearing. A finding of a first violation suspends your license for 6 months and you must later pay a suspension termination fee and civil penalty to reinstate your license.

Can colleges impose other punishments?

In addition to criminal penalties, there is a good chance of additional disciplinary action from your college, including things like:

  • Suspension or expulsion from the university
  • Losing your merit money, grants or scholarship
  • Forfeiting your spot on a varsity team
  • Losing your position on a student organization, club, or ROTC

If you are a high school student with a DWI on your record, you may need to disclose this criminal conviction when applying to college.