In the state of New York, the legal drinking age is 21. A high number of DWI-related accidents and fatalities involve drivers who were under the age of 21. For this and other reasons, there are different penalties and standards that apply for underage DWI offenders. For those who are 21 and older, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit is below .08%. For those who are under the age of 21, if the BAC is .02% or higher, you may be cited for DWI. Typically the police will administer a breath or blood test to determine your BAC. Anyone who is under the legal age who has been charged with underage DWI, should contact a NYC underage DWI lawyer to learn what options or defenses may be applicable to your situation.
What penalties may be imposed in an underage DWI case?
An underage DWI conviction carries a variety of potential penalties. Many of these penalties are harsher than those for drivers over 21. For a first offense, you face up to 1 year in jail, a fine between $500 and $1000, and a driver’s license suspension of 6 months. A second offense within a 5 year period carries a minimum of 5 days jail and up to 4 years in jail, a fine between $1000 and $5000, and a 1 year driver’s license suspension. Often, underage DWI offenders as part of a sentence are placed on probation, required to participate in alcohol treatment programs, required to submit to periodic random alcohol testing, and required to complete community service.
In addition to the DWI charge, you may also be charged with additional criminal offenses. Each additional offense carries its own penalties, including additional fines and jail time. Some additional charges that may arise, depending on the circumstances, include: minor in possession of alcohol, illegal distribution of alcohol to minors, child endangerment, soliciting alcohol, and driving offenses.
An underage DWI conviction will often have an adverse impact on your insurance, including possible termination of the insurance policy. The insurance premiums will likely increase and remain higher for several years. You will also be required to pay fees and provide additional documentation to reinstate your driver’s license after any period of suspension. If you continue to drive and fail to reinstate your driver’s license, then you may be charged with additional offenses if you are caught driving.
An underage DWI conviction will remain on your criminal record and will show up when criminal background checks are completed. This could have an adverse impact on securing employment, funding, schooling and other areas of life.
What are some defenses to an underage DWI case?
In all criminal cases, the prosecution must be able to prove all elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Many incorrectly assume that because there are BAC results, a DWI charge cannot be defeated. DWI cases involve many technical aspects and procedures that the police are required to follow. When the police fail to follow the proper procedures, then evidence may be thrown out and the charges dismissed. An experienced NYC underage DWI lawyer can identify these potential errors and present the information to court.
Because DWI offenses involve the operation of motor vehicles, the police must have a legitimate reason to pull the vehicle over. If the police have at least a reasonable suspicion that a law has been broken, then they can pull the vehicle over. Sometimes the police lack this reasonable suspicion of a crime, and the stop of the vehicle can be challenged. The police officer must be able to articulate the specific facts and reasons for pulling the vehicle over. If the officer fails to do this, the judge can exclude all evidence obtained from the traffic stop, including your BAC results.
The police must also have reasonable suspicion that you are driving while intoxicated in order to conduct field sobriety tests and require a breath test. You can also require the police officer to set forth the facts that support a reason to suspect intoxication. The police cannot require testing on a mere hunch, but must have other evidence such as a driving pattern, odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, alcohol in the vehicle, etc.
The BAC results may be challenged if the police officer did not follow to proper protocol or procedures in using the breath test device. Breathalyzers are complex instruments that must be properly calibrated. Police officers must be trained and certified to use the instruments. There are also specific procedures, including waiting times, that the officers must follow before receiving the breath tests. Some officers fail to follow the procedures or lack the proper certification. If these issues occur, then the BAC results may be questioned and possibly thrown out of the case.
Even if there are no apparent errors in your case, you still have the right to have a trial and require the prosecution to prove the case. Trials are subject to procedural and evidence rules. An attorney will be able to represent you and ensure compliance with these rules.
How can NYC underage DWI lawyers help?
Experienced NYC underage DWI are familiar with the issues that may arise in a DWI case. A lawyer will be able to review your case and identify potential defenses. They will be able to represent you in court and provide legal advice throughout the process. Underage DWI lawyers will be familiar with the common sentences and can negotiate fair plea agreements if the opportunity is available and the case cannot otherwise be resolved. A lawyer will be able to advise you of the various penalties that you are facing, including those that are not obvious or foreseeable. If you are facing DWI charges and are under the age of 21, contact a NYC underage DWI lawyer as soon as possible for advice about your situation.
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