Many minors do not think they need an attorney for a zero-tolerance DWI. It’s rather easy to see why. This infraction is not technically a criminal offense in New York.[1] Furthermore, the possible penalties, which mostly include license suspension and a fine, are relatively light. But the penalties for driving with a suspended license are potentially severe. Moreover, many Monroe County judges believe these defendants are scofflaws, and they throw the book at them. And, although a limited license is available, the DMV doesn’t simply give them away.

So, if you were charged with a zero-tolerance DWI, you should definitely hire a DWI Attorney, even if you are under 21. Although a zero-tolerance DWI isn’t technically a criminal matter, it has basically the same elements as a standard DWI. Therefore, if the evidence is weak, a Rochester criminal defense lawyer might be able to get the case thrown out of court. If nothing else, evidentiary weaknesses which attorneys identify make it easier to obtain a limited license.

Hire a DWI Attorney for Zero-Tolerance Infractions

The state could fine you and take away your drivers’ license if you’re under 21, you refuse to provide a chemical sample, or your BAC was between .02 and .08. So, despite the “zero tolerance” moniker, these offenses aren’t exactly zero tolerance. The .02 threshold means that defendants who gargle with mouthwash, have wine at communion, or celebrate with a sip of champagne are probably okay.

The possible penalties for this infraction (not crime) are:

  • $125 civil penalty (not a fine), and
  • Six-month drivers’ license suspension.

The distinction between infractions and crimes is a subtle one, but an important one. Generally, employers, universities, and other people with inquiring minds ask about criminal convictions. Even if you pay the maximum penalty and sit out the maximum suspension period, you have not been convicted of a crime.

Speaking of drivers’ license suspension, if this is your first offense, a Rochester criminal defense lawyer can help you obtain a conditional license that allows you to drive to and from work, to and from school, and in a few other limited circumstances. You must complete the Impaired Driver Program, f/k/a the Drinking Driver Program.

An illegal stop and lack of probable cause for a chemical sample request are the two biggest defenses in these cases. Officers must have reasonable suspicion to detain motorists. They cannot detain a motorist on a hunch or because s/he “doesn’t look right.” Poor performance on the field sobriety tests, such as the walk and turn, usually satisfies the probable cause requirement. Some drivers refuse to perform these tests, which is their right under the Fifth Amendment.

Underage DWIs

As for the penalties, they are the same for underage and over-21 DWIs, except the possible license suspension period is one year instead of 90 days. Furthermore, minors are usually ineligible for a conditional license.

DWI is a criminal offense. So, it’s more serious and also easier to defend. Intoxication, or lack thereof, isn’t really relevant in a zero-tolerance DWI. But it’s highly relevant in a standard DWI. Chemical tests, especially Breathalyzer tests, are often inaccurate. Additionally, the Field Sobriety Tests are not always reliable indicators of intoxication. The aforementioned walk and turn (walking a straight line) is a good example. It’s almost impossible for anyone with any mobility impairment whatsoever, including a sore ankle or a hangnail, to complete this test, whether the person is drunk or sober.

Hire a DWI Attorney in Rochester

A zero-tolerance DWI is not a criminal offense, but it could mean a world of trouble. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester defense lawyer, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. Convenient payment plans are available.



The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

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