What is New York’s Zero Tolerance policy?

On Nov. 1, 1996, the state of New York instituted its Zero Tolerance law, which made it illegal for drivers under the age of 21 to drink alcohol and then drive a car, states Stop DWI New York. Drivers under 21 who get pulled over for driving under the influence of alcohol may face charges under the state’s Zero Tolerance policy if their Blood Alcohol Concentration is between 0.02% and 0.07%. 

Even though breaking the state’s Zero Tolerance law is a serious violation, younger drivers cannot go to jail for this offense alone. However, drivers found guilty of drinking and driving who are under the age of 21 could have to pay a civil penalty totaling $125 and face license suspension. 

A 0.02% BAC reading 

Drivers under 21 will likely reach a BAC of 0.02% after they drink one standardized alcoholic beverage. Some examples include the following: 

  • One 12-ounce beer 
  • One 5-ounce glass of wine 
  • One 12-ounce malt liquor or wine cooler 
  • One 1.5-ounce shot 

This does not necessarily mean younger drivers can feel confident that law enforcement will not pull them over for drunk driving after consuming a single alcoholic beverage because many factors can contribute to a higher BAC reading. For example, how quickly a person drinks, his or her weight and if he or she ate before drinking can all affect how quickly his or her BAC level rises. 

Certain mouthwashes, medicines and cough syrups can also raise BAC to approximately 0.01% in most people, so a reading of 0.02% or higher will typically reflect willful alcohol consumption. 

The charge 

Drivers who offend New York’s Zero Tolerance policy by driving with a BAC between 0.02% and 0.07% face the charge of “driving after having consumed alcohol.” After this occurs, the Department of Motor Vehicles will have them attend a hearing in front of an administrative law judge. 

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