Like several other states, New York has what is referred to as a Zero Tolerance law when it comes to people under 21 accused of drinking and driving in this state.

As the name implies, a Zero Tolerance law imposes criminal and other penalties on someone under 21, who ordinarily shouldn’t be consuming alcohol at all, if they are caught driving with even a very low blood alcohol concentration or BAC. The requisite BAC is often just the minimum amount necessary to be able to say reliably that the person indeed had a drink. The logic behind this type of law is that it improves traffic safety and, in particular, reduces the number of deaths among younger drivers.

New York’s Zero Tolerance law allows the state to arrest and file criminal charges against someone under 21 if he is caught with .02 BAC after being administered a valid blood or breath test. In addition to the possibility of fines, probation, a court-ordered license suspension and even jail, the person may face additional administrative penalties from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

These penalties may be harsher than had the person been accused of drunk driving while being of legal drinking age. Moreover, even a first-time offender will have to live with the fallout of having a criminal conviction on her record.

It is important for someone accused of underage drunk driving to remember that, as with all such cases, the police and prosecutors will still have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt at trial, unless of course one enters a plea of guilty. To do so, they will have to show that all of the steps they took, from the initial stop onward, were legal and proper. For this reason, young White Plains residents accused of violating the Zero Tolerance law may wish to go over their options with a criminal law attorney.