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What is The Zero Tolerance Law?
A driver under the age of twenty-one in New York State will be penalized if he or she is found to have operated a motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol content of between .02%-.07% (N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law §1192-a). Violations of this provision are not handled in criminal court, but instead by the Department of Motor Vehicles (see N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law §1192-a).

Although you have received a ticket for violating this law, you are not legally considered to have been arrested on this charge, and your driver's license will not be suspended or revoked prior to a hearing conducted before an Administrative Law Judge at the Department of Motor Vehicles. You will receive a notice from the Department of Motor Vehicles scheduling such a hearing. Any other tickets that you received will be handled in the local criminal court. In other words, you will be required to appear in two different courts to resolve these charges.

Unlike criminal court, where any charges must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for a conviction to occur, the standard of proof at a Department of Motor Vehicles' hearing is much lower. The police officer only needs to establish the allegation against you by “clear and convincing evidence” for the Administrative Law Judge to find you guilty of violating the Zero Tolerance Law. The hearing will be limited to the following issues:

1. Whether you “operated” a motor vehicle on a public highway;
2. Whether a valid request to submit to a chemical test was made by the police officer;
3. Whether you were less than twenty-one years of age at the time of the offense;
4. Whether the chemical test was properly administered;
5. Whether the test found that you had consumed alcohol and your BAC was between .02% and .07%;
6. Whether the police officer's stop of your vehicle was lawful.

If, at the conclusion of the hearing, the Administrative Law Judge finds all of these issues in the affirmative, then you will be found guilty of violating the Zero Tolerance Law set forth at N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law §1192-a. If the Administrative Law Judge finds any one of these issues in the negative, he or she must find that you did not drive after having consumed alcohol, and no further action will be taken against you.

What are the Potential Penalties?

If the Administrative Law Judge finds you guilty of violating the Zero Tolerance Law, and this is your first alcohol-related driving offense, the following penalties will be imposed: A civil Fine of $125, and a license suspension of six months

If you are found guilty and you have previously been convicted of Driving While Intoxicated, Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol or of violating the Zero Tolerance Law, the following penalties will be imposed:
A civil fine of $125 and a revocation of your driver's license for one year or until twenty-one, whichever is greater.

Can I get a Conditional License?

If this is your first alcohol-related driving offense, you are eligible to participate in the Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and obtain a conditional license. This program consists of weekly classes for approximately seven weeks and involves a total of approximately fifteen (15) classroom hours. The cost to enroll in the DDP is approximately $225.

Because you are permitted to participate in the DDP, then, absent any aggravating factors, you are also eligible for a conditional license. Although there are limitations imposed on the holder of a conditional license, you can drive to and from school and your place of employment. Other driving privileges associated with this license will be explained by your DDP instructor. The cost for the conditional license is approximately $75; this is in addition to the fee to enroll in the DDP. Because of your age, additional conditions may be imposed. It will cost you an additional $25 to return your conditional license to the DMV.

One third of all DDP attendees are sent for additional assessments and/or treatment. If the Department of Motor Vehicles determines that you are in need of additional counseling, failure to complete that treatment will result in the revocation of all driving privileges, including a conditional license.

If you are found guilty of violating the Zero Tolerance Law and you have previously been convicted of Driving While Intoxicated, Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol or of violating the Zero Tolerance Law, then you may not participate in the DDP and cannot obtain a conditional license.

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