In the state of New York, any driver under the age of 21 is forbidden from driving after consuming alcohol. In most cases, this means that a driver’s blood alcohol content is .02 percent or higher. However, special circumstances may apply if alcohol is consumed for religious purposes or if the alcohol came from a mouthwash or similar source.
What the Law Says About This Charge
State law says that any driver who is found to be driving while under the influence of alcohol has committed a crime. To be considered under the influence, a driver over the age of 21 must have a BAC of .08 or higher. However, the state has a zero tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21, which means that they cannot have any alcohol before driving.
It is not necessary to prove that a driver was impaired when taken into custody or showed signs of impairment prior to police contact. A prosecutor merely needs to show that a defendant was driving, was under the age of 21 and had consumed alcohol prior to driving.
Examples of This Charge
A 19-year-old decided to have a beer while hanging out with a friend after work. While driving home, the driver was pulled over for speeding, and during the traffic stop, the officer smelled alcohol on that person’s breath. This led to a chemical test that showed the driver to have a BAC of .02 percent.
Since this person was under the age of 21, it was a violation of state law. It would also be a violation of state law if the driver had a BAC of .04 percent or higher even if alcohol was consumed for valid religious reasons. In such a scenario, a driver under the age of 21 would still need to keep his or her BAC at .02 percent or lower.
Defenses to This Charge
There must be probable cause for an officer to conduct a traffic stop. If there was no reason to do so, any evidence collected may be thrown out or suppressed at trial. Assuming that a chemical test was the only objective proof that a driver was in violation of the law, there may not be enough evidence for a prosecutor to win the case. Therefore, the charge may be thrown out or reduced through a plea bargain.
Another defense to the charge may revolve around how the chemical test was conducted or handled afterward. If the test was not conducted in accordance with state law, it may not be considered valid proof of impairment. If the test was store improperly or taken too long after a traffic stop, that may cast doubt on whether the driver was impaired to begin with.
It may also be possible to argue that the driver did not drink beer or liquor before operating a motor vehicle. Mouthwash or similar legal substances may contain trace amounts of alcohol. If an attorney can show that a driver used such a substance, it may cast doubt on a prosecutor’s case against that person.
Those who are facing charges of underage drinking and driving may wish to consult with a NYC criminal lawyer as soon as possible. He or she may be able to create a defense to the charge that may lead to reduced penalties. In some cases, it may lead to a full acquittal, which means that the charge may be sealed in the event of a background check or other inquiry into your criminal record.