To a teenager, it might not appear to be a big deal: get together with a few friends, find some alcohol and have some "harmless" fun drinking. Apart from the obvious health and safety issues involved with underage drinking, there are legal issues involved in underage drinking that many teens, their parents and their providers are simply unaware of until it's too late.
A good example of the ripple-effect triggered by underage drinking and driving occurred recently in Broome County, where WBNG TV reported that three people were arrested after a teenager was caught driving drunk.
The 16-year-old boy who was driving while intoxicated was arrested, of course. So was the 18-year-old who bought the alcohol and the 29-year-old liquor store clerk who was charged with selling alcohol to a minor. The clerk allegedly failed to ask the 18-year-old for identification before selling him the alcohol.
The clerk now faces up to a year in jail, plus a $1,000 fine for his failure to check for ID. It's possible that his employer will face a fine of up to $5,000, as well as administrative charges.
The 18-year-old who bought the alcohol faces a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully dealing with a child (providing alcohol to a minor; punishable by up to a year in jail), while the young drunk driver can have his license immediately suspended by a judge, even before a blood alcohol content (BAC) test result is received.
A minor convicted of DUI or DWAI loses their driver's license for a year. If convicted a second time while under 21, their license is suspended for a year or until they turn 21, whichever period is longer.
In addition, there is a zero tolerance law enabling judges to suspend a minor's license if even a small amount of alcohol is detected. It doesn't have to be at the .08 or above level required to convict an adult of DWI or DWAI.
If a minor's BAC is .02 to .07, they must appear at a DMV hearing before a judge. If the judge finds the evidence supports the charge, the minor loses their license for six months. They also get a $125 civil penalty, as well as a $100 termination fee.
Any additional offense under the zero tolerance law means a license suspension of at least one year (or until the minor turns 21), plus another $225 in fines and fees.
You and the Law
If you or a loved one faces charges related to underage drinking and driving, providing alcohol to a minor or other DWI charges, contact a New York criminal defense attorney. A criminal defense lawyer can assess the facts of a case, advise a defendant of their legal options and work to help them retain driving privileges.