New York's Zero Tolerance Law

person with alcohol in vehicle

When your child starts driving, parents and their new driver should become familiar with the various laws that could potentially impact their child’s driver’s license. One of the most important laws that you should know more about is New York’s “Zero Tolerance Law.”

What is the Zero Tolerance Law?

The Zero Tolerance Law allows the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (NYS DMV) to penalize drivers under the age of twenty-one (21 years) for driving with alcohol in their system, even though they may not have violated the criminal statutes under New York State’s DWI laws.

What Happens If a Young Driver Violates the Zero Tolerance Law?

If a driver under the age of twenty-one years is stopped and is found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) between .02% and .07%, they will be required to appear for a hearing at the NYS DMV. The BAC is determined at the time of the stop by the police officer administering a breath test or other chemical test which measures the percentage of alcohol in the driver’s blood.

At the New York State DMV hearing, it must prove that the driver was:

  1. Under twenty-one years of age; and
  2. Operating a motor vehicle; and
  3. That a chemical test showed a blood alcohol content (BAC) of between .02% and .07%.

If those three elements are proven, then under the Zero Tolerance Law the young driver will have his/her license suspended for six months and a monetary penalty of $125 will be imposed. The record of a Zero Tolerance Law violation will remain on a driver’s record for three years or until the driver turns twenty-one years of age, whichever is longer. If the driver has a prior alcohol-related offense on his record, the driver’s license will be revoked for one year (not suspended) or until that person turns twenty-one years of age pursuant to the Zero Tolerance Law.

It is noteworthy that unlike a DWI related disposition the Zero Tolerance Law specifically allows for the sealing of records against the defendant following the final disposition of proceedings. In addition, under the Zero Tolerance Law a driver’s license or privilege to drive in New York State may not be suspended pending a hearing, as occurs when a person is charged with a DWI related offense.

Stephen J. Riebling, Jr. is a criminal defense attorney and partner with Riebling & Payton, PLLC, located in Westchester County, NY, and has been practicing for nearly 25 years. To learn more about Mr. Riebling and the firm, visit Riebling & Payton, PLLC at