Drunk driving law by country

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The laws of driving under the influence vary between countries. One difference is the acceptable limit of blood alcohol content before a person is charged with a crime.


Central Asia[edit]

East Asia[edit]

  • China: 0.02% (CNY 200–500 fine, 1–17 months license suspension); 0.78% (up to 15 days prison, 3 years licence suspension, CNY 500-2000 fine)[citation needed]

Beginning May 1, 2011, Chinese law now mandates a penal detention up to 6 months for any person convicted of drunken driving. (In China, penal detention is a criminal punishment similar to, but less severe than, imprisonment.)[citation needed]

  • Hong Kong: 0.05% or BrAC 0.22 mg/L or urine 0.067%. Driving under the influence of alcohol beyond legal limit is punishable with a monetary fine and up to three years imprisonment, with 10 driving-offense points and mandatory Driving Improvement Course.[1]
  • Japan: BrAC 0.15 mg/L (equivalent to 0.03%). Additionally, regardless of alcohol readings, police may also determine the driver to be "driving drunk," which is punished more severely than exceeding the designated alcohol limits.[2]
  • Republic of Korea: 0.05% [3]
  • Taiwan: 0.05% (BrAC 0.15 mg/L)

Over 0.05% but under 0.11%: TWD 15,000 to 90,000 fine, and license suspension for 1 year.[citation needed]

0.11% and above: license suspension for 1 year, and charge of offences against public safety with possible prison sentence up to 2 years as the maximum penalty. If the driver is convicted of causing accidents, the penalty shall be increased by half.[citation needed]

If the driver causes serious injuries or death, the license will be suspended for life or even face the death penalty.

South Asia[edit]

  • India: 0.03%. This is according to section 185 of Motor Vehicles Act 1988. On a first offence, the punishment is imprisonment of 6 months and/or fine of 2000 Indian Rupees (INR). If the second offence is committed within three years, the punishment is 2 years and/or fine of 3000 Indian Rupees (INR). The clause of 30 mg/dL was added by an amendment in 1994. It came into effect beginning 14 November 1994.
  • Nepal: 0%. Breathalyzer testing is regularly used in major cities like Kathmandu, Pokhara, Biratnagar and Highways. For more verification, driver will be taken to nearest hospitals for blood and urine test (if demanded by the driver). Licence will be seized instantly. Driver will get the licence back after attending anti-alcoholic classes run by Nepal Traffic Police and fine will be charged NRS 1000.[citation needed]
  • Pakistan: Falls under Drink and Drugs, S. No 14. No Set limit. 8 Penalty Points.[4]
  • Sri Lanka: 0.06%[citation needed] - Breathalyzer testing is not used routinely. If suspected by police the driver is produced before the closest government medical officer who examines and determines whether the driver is under influence. If the driver refuses examination by the medical officer he is considered to have been under influence by default.

Southeast Asia[edit]

Western Asia[edit]

  • Turkey: 0.05%,[8] zero for commercial transport and public service drivers.
  • Armenia: Zero[citation needed]
  • Azerbaijan: Zero[citation needed]
  • Georgia: 0.03%[citation needed]
  • Iran: Zero. It is illegal for Muslims to make, sell or possess alcohol for use as a drug. Some forms of ethanol are allowed for scientific, medical and industrial use. In addition non-Muslim minorities are permitted to make and possess small amounts of alcohol for their own use.
  • Israel: 24 mg per 100 ml of breath (penalties only apply above 26 mg per 100 ml of breath due to lawsuits about sensitivity of devices used). New drivers, drivers under 24 years of age and commercial drivers 5 mg per 100 ml of breath.[9]
  • Jordan: Zero[citation needed] - Breathalyzer testing is not routinely used. If suspected by police the driver is produced before the closest government medical officer who examines and determines whether the driver is under influence.
  • Kuwait: No limit, alcohol is banned.
  • Saudi Arabia: No limit, alcohol is banned.
  • United Arab Emirates: Zero[citation needed]


North America[edit]


The Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1968-69 made it a per se offence to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) in excess of 80 mg/100 ml of blood. Refusal of a police officer's demand to provide a breath sample was made an offence at the same time and both began as summary conviction offences, with a mandatory minimum $50 fine.[10]

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a generic term for a series of offences under the Criminal Code of Canada. The main offences are operating a motor vehicle while the ability to do so is impaired by alcohol or a drug, contrary to section 253(a) of the Canadian Criminal Code, and operating a motor vehicle while having a blood alcohol concentration of greater than 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood, contrary to section 253(b) of the Criminal Code. See section 253 of the Criminal Code Both offences can be committed by a person who is actually operating or driving a motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or railway equipment or by a person who has care or control of such a vehicle. Care or control includes actual care or control and presumed care or control section 260(1)(a) where the person occupies the driver's seat. The latter is often the case where police find an individual sleeping behind the wheel.

The offences are usually investigated by the police coming across a driver with either an erratic driving pattern or who has been pulled over. The police may immediately have grounds to arrest for impaired driving and make an approved instrument demand under section 254(3). Those grounds are based on various indicia of impairment. If the police merely have a suspicion of alcohol in the individual's body, they may make a demand under section 254(2) requiring the driver to give a sample of his or her breath into an approved screening device, which will determine the driver's blood-alcohol concentration on a preliminary, non-evidentiary basis. Based on the screening device results, if the police believe on reasonable and probable grounds that the driver is committing an offence under section 253 of the Criminal Code, the police can demand that the driver go to the police station to give samples of his or her breath for an approved instrument test, which would be used to prosecute the driver for over 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

The minimum punishments for impaired driving and driving over 0.08% are:

  • For the first offence: $1,000 fine, 1-year driving prohibition;
  • For the second offence: 30 days jail, 2-year driving prohibition;
  • For the third or subsequent offence: 120 days jail, 3-year driving prohibition.

In addition to the federal criminal laws, all provincial governments have enacted their own measures against impaired driving. Such laws complement the federal laws (part of the double aspect doctrine of Canadian constitutional law). Some provinces will suspend a driver's license upon him or her being charged with impaired driving, rather than being convicted. Some provinces will automatically impose a licence suspension that runs longer than the driving prohibition handed down by the court. Provincial and federal driving prohibitions run concurrently if imposed for the same offence(s)at the same time.

In Ontario, a person convicted of a DUI must also complete an 8-month training course and install an ignition interlock device for a period of one year after the licence suspension. Jail time can be imposed for any first time Criminal Code drinking and driving offence. Jail is appropriate where there is an accident and/or the readings are high. Readings above 160 mg/100 ml are an aggravating circumstance. Jail is the minimum punishment for second and third offences.

Foreigners with recent (in the past 5 years) drunk-driving criminal convictions are generally refused entry at the border. Drunk driving charges that can make an individual criminally inadmissible to Canada include, but are not limited to, Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Driving While Impaired (DWI), Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated (OMVI), and Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI).[11] Canada's Immigration Act section 36 considers any foreign drinking and driving outstanding charge or conviction as an Indictable offence unless a prosecutor has chosen to proceed by summary conviction. Criminal inadmissibility can be overcome permanently by Criminal Rehabilitation or temporarily by obtaining a Temporary Resident Permit.[11]

On January 27, 2001, Andrei Knyazev, a Russian diplomat in Canada killed a Canadian woman while drinking and driving. He was imprisoned in Russia. This incident triggered a crackdown on drunk driving by diplomats in Canada.

On Dec 15, 2005, Charly Hart of Watford, Ontario, a man with a 35-year history of impaired driving which included thirty-nine convictions, was on the occasion of his latest such conviction sentenced to six years in prison, the most severe penalty ever handed down in Canada when the offence did not involve a fatality, and the maximum sentence permitted under the law.[12]


Foreigners with recent (in the past 10 years) drunk-driving criminal convictions are generally refused entry at the border. Mexico's Immigration Act section 36 considers any foreign drinking and driving outstanding charge or conviction as an Indictable offense (similar to a felony).

United States[edit]

A 1937 poster warns US drivers about the dangers of mixing alcohol and driving.

Some states now have two statutory offenses.[13] The first is the traditional offense, variously called driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), driving while intoxicated/impaired (DWI)[14] or operating while intoxicated/impaired (OWI). The second and more recent is the so-called illegal per se offense of driving with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) by volume (mass of alcohol/volume of blood) of 0.08% (previously 0.10%) or higher. In most states, the timing of the chemical test is important because the law mandates a result within a given time period after the driving stopped, usually two hours. The first offense requires proof of intoxication, although evidence of BAC is admissible as rebuttably presumptive evidence of that intoxication; the second requires only proof of BAC at the time of being in physical control of a motor vehicle. An accused may be convicted of both offenses, but may only be punished for one.[15] The differences between state penalties still wavers. Wisconsin, for instance, is the only state that continues to treat first offense drunk driving arrests as forfeiture.[16]

It is also a criminal offense in all states to drive a vehicle while under the influence of drugs DUID, or under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs; the drugs themselves need not be illegal, but can be prescription or even over-the-counter. In some states, the effects of some herbal remedies (such as Kava Kava extract) fall into this category. Several states also have enacted statutes to create a DUI offense by virtue of huffing noxious fumes, such as glue sniffing or inhaling similar volatile chemical fumes. [8]. DUI-impairment statutes require that violations be supported by evidence of impairment as a result of the alcohol or other drugs, or combined, or by any noxious vapors. Some states have recently passed laws making driving with the mere presence of certain drugs (such as marijuana or its metabolites) a criminal offense. These new statutes are sometimes referred to as DUI-drugs per se statutes.

Some states also include a lesser charge of driving with a BAC of 0.05%; other states limit this offense to drivers under the age of 21. All states and DC also now have zero tolerance laws: the license of anyone under 21 driving with any detectable alcohol in their bloodstream (BAC limits of 0.01% or 0.02% apply in some states, such as Florida.) will be suspended. In 2009, Puerto Rico joined these states, setting a limit of 0.02 for drivers under 21, despite maintaining a legal drinking age of 18.[17]

The blood-alcohol limit for commercial drivers is 0.04%.[18] Commercial drivers are also subject to stricter punishments for exceeding the blood-alcohol limit. According to the NHTSA, "Drivers are considered to be alcohol-impaired when their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher. Thus, any fatality occurring in a crash involving a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher is considered to be an alcohol-impaired-driving fatality. The term “driver” refers to the operator of any motor vehicle, including a motorcycle." [19]

Signs like this warn drivers about the dangers of driving under the influence and how "you can't afford it". This sign is common in Pennsylvania (Handbook Of Approved Signs I60-1).

Pilots of aircraft may not fly within eight hours of consuming alcohol, while under the impairing influence of alcohol or any other drug, or while showing a blood alcohol concentration equal to or greater than 0.04 grams per decilitre of blood.[20]

The various versions of "driving under the influence" generally constitute a misdemeanor (punishable by up to one year in jail). However, the offense may be elevated to a felony (punishable by a longer term in state prison) if the incident caused serious injury (felony DUI), death (vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide), or extensive property damage (a state specified dollar amount) or if the defendant has a designated number of prior DUI convictions within a given time period (commonly, 3 prior convictions within 7 years). California, which is being followed by a growing number of states, now charges second-degree murder where the legal state of mind of malice exists—that is, where the defendant exhibited a reckless indifference to the lives of others.

The aftermath of a drunk driving car crash is simulated as part of an anti-drunk driving campaign for California high school students.


A California DUI arrest triggers two separate cases–one in court and another at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The criminal case typically involves two different counts. The first, under California Vehicle Code section 23152(a), is driving under the influence of alcohol, which is commonly known as the "a" count. The second offense, under California Vehicle Code section 23152(b), is a related charge of driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or greater–the "b" count. The second charge is the one that triggers the California Department of Motor Vehicles DUI case, where the California DMV will attempt to suspend the motorist's driving privileges.[citation needed]

Drivers convicted of DUI criminal court face substantial punishment that can include fines, jail time, probation, alcohol education school, and a driver's license suspension that separate from the one imposed after a lost DMV hearing. The amount of punishment depends on the facts of the case, including how many prior DUI convictions the driver has[citation needed].

California DUI convictions count as prior offenses for 10 years, meaning that drivers who are arrested for DUI within a decade of a prior drunk driving offense will be charged with a repeat offense. If more than 10 years has passed since a prior DUI arrest, a subsequent drunk driving offense will be charged as a first offense. The time period is measured from arrest date to arrest date[citation needed].

Anyone arrested for DUI in California must request a DMV hearing within 10 days or have their driver's license automatically suspended[citation needed]. The California DMV hearing that follows a DUI arrest is a civil matter, not a criminal case, so there is a much lower standard of proof than in criminal court. Whereas in criminal court guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, at the DMV the standard of proof is by a "preponderance of the evidence," which is often described as "50 percent plus a feather." This means that the DMV hearing officer must only establish that it's more likely than not that the driver violated California DUI laws.

The hearing officer at a California DMV hearing acts as both judge and prosecutor. The issues at hand will depend on whether the driver took a chemical test to determine the blood alcohol content, or BAC. If the driver took a breath or blood test to determine the BAC, the DMV hearing officer will seek to establish three facts - whether police had probable cause to arrest the driver, whether the arrest was lawful, and whether the driver had a BAC of .08 percent or greater in violation of California law. If the driver is accused of refusing a chemical test, the hearing officer will seek to establish whether the driver was properly advised of the consequences of refusing the test, and whether he or she continued to refuse after receiving that warning.

Drivers who lose their DMV hearings following a California DUI arrest face substantial driver's license suspensions. The length of the driver's license suspension depends on how many prior DUI arrests the driver has and whether or not a chemical test was taken. For example, a first-time DUI arrest where the driver took a chemical test will result in a four-month suspension, while a first-time arrest with a chemical test refusal will result in a one-year driver's license suspension[21]


In Virginia, a person can be charged with a DUI for driving under the influence of alcohol, regardless of his or her BAC; under the influence of drugs; with a blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) greater than .08 per 210 liters of breath; or under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol.[22] If charged with a first or second offense DUI, it is punishable as a class 1 misdemeanor. This means that the charged individual would be facing up to 12 months in jail and a fine not more than $2,500.00.[23] A third offense is a felony in Virginia.[23]

Like California, the punishment for a DUI is aggravated for subsequent offenses that occur within a 10 year period. However, any offense committed after a conviction of a felony DUI will remain a felony offense regardless of the time period between offenses. If a person has never been convicted of felony DUI and more than 10 years passes between offenses, the person will only be charged with a first offense. The time period is measured from the date of the offense.[24]

In Virginia, a conviction prompts the DMV to suspend the license of the offender for the requisite period of time depending on the offense. There is no subsequent DMV hearing in Virginia.

If the DUI offense involves the use of alcohol, Virginia law permits the fact finder to infer intoxication if the person's BAC is .08 or higher as measured on a chemical test. If the person's BAC is less than .05, Virginia law presumes that the person is not intoxicated. However, there is no presumption for a BAC greater than .05 but less than a .08. This means a person could be convicted of a DUI with a BAC as low as .06. In addition to these presumptions, Virginia law also presumes that a person is under the influence if he or she has certain levels of specific drugs in their system (e.g. cocaine, heroin, pcp, etc.)

DUI investigation[edit]

One of three things must happen to trigger a DUI investigation: There must be an observed violation of the law, a driving pattern so suggestive of driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs so as to provide a reasonable suspicion that a crime has taken place, or a lawful roadblock or checkpoint.

One reason drivers are stopped on suspicion of DUI is because of driving patterns such as weaving, driving too slowly, or rapid braking or acceleration. Some of the most common reasons police stop drivers, such as speeding, aren’t recognized as DUI driving patterns by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.[citation needed]

Administrative License Suspension (ALS)[edit]

  • Law enforcement officers conduct Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs), including the use of portable breath analyzers (PBAs) for the purposes of determining if probable cause exists for an arrest. Until an arrest has been made, a motorist is under no obligation to perform any test. Most states[citation needed] consider such a pre-arrest refusal inadmissible in court.
  • Depending on previous offenses or refusals, licenses may be automatically suspended for a period of 90 days to five years, or permanently revoked for multiple DWI convictions (Connecticut).
  • As of 2010, only eight states did not have ALS laws: Kentucky, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Tennessee.[25]

An SR-22 is an official documentation required to redeem a suspended drivers license and get a car registered at the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). A SR22 Filing is a form issued by an insurance company which removes a suspension order placed by the DMV's office on an individual's driving privilege. The most common reason for an SR22 filing is an arrest for Driving Under Intoxication (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).[citation needed] The filing provides a guarantee to the state that an insurance company has issued at least minimum liability coverage for the person making that filing and that the insurance company will notify the DMV should the insurance ever lapse for any reason.

  • Drivers in the state of Florida who are not lawfully arrested with reasonable cause by a law enforcement officer, DO NOT have to submit to any "on the spot" chemical or physical alcohol testing.[26]
  • In Arizona, a refusal to submit to a chemical test often results in the police obtaining a search warrant and, if necessary, forcibly taking the suspect's blood.


Central America[edit]

South America[edit]

  • Argentina: 0.05% [29]
  • Bolivia: 0.07%[citation needed]
  • Brazil: Any BAC up to 0.06% results in a fine and 12 month suspension of the driver's license. Anything above 0.06% is considered a criminal offense.[30][31]
  • Chile: From 15 March 2012: 0.03%-0.08% the driver is considered to be driving under the influence and carries a three-month suspension and a fine of US$82-US$410 (as of 19 March 2012); over 0.08% the driver is considered to be drunk and carries a prison term of 61 to 301 days, a fine of US$164-US$820 (as of 19 March 2012) and a two-year suspension for the first offense, a five-year suspension for a second offense, and a life suspension for a third offense.[32]
  • Colombia: Colombia is known to have the toughest penalties against those driving under the influence in all of Latin America and practice a zero policy on DUIs. If a driver is found to be driving between 20 and 39 milligrams of ethanol for every 100 millimeters of blood (equivalent to 0.02%-0.039% BAC), the driver is to have their license suspended for a year, pay a fine of US$914 (as of 22 December 2013), and serve 20 hours of community service. In the most extreme cases, if a driver is found to be driving with grade three alcohol (150 milligrams or more of ethanol), the driver is to have their licence confiscated for 10 years, pay a fine of US$7,314 (as of 22 December 2013), and serve 50 hours of community service. If the driver gets in an accident and causes injuries and or deaths, the driver is to face between 2.5 and 18 years of prison sentence.[33]
  • Ecuador: 0.07%[citation needed]
  • Guyana: 0.01%[citation needed]
  • Paraguay: Zero[citation needed]
  • Peru: Drivers below a 0.05% BAC will be given a warning. At a 0.05% and over, the driver will be given a fine and a license suspension of no less than 6 months and no more than 2 years. If the driver is involved in an accident without causing death or severe injury to another individual, he or she may possibly face jail time. If the driver's causes an accident with a BAC over 0.101%, involving death or severe injury to another party, he or she will receive a mandatory prison sentence of 3 to 5 years. The driver's license will also be permanently revoked.[citation needed]
  • Suriname: 0.08%[citation needed]
  • Uruguay: 0.03% for amateur drivers (since March 2009) and zero for professional drivers[citation needed]
  • Venezuela: 0.05%[citation needed]


Map of Europe showing countries' blood alcohol limits as defined in g/dl for the general population.

European Union[edit]

Note: "Zero" usually means "below detection limit".

  • Austria: 0.05%. 0.01% for drivers who have held a licence for less than 2 years and drivers of vehicles over 7.5 tonnes[citation needed]
  • Belgium: 0.05%.[8] Fines and driving bans increase as the alcohol concentration in the blood increases.[34]
  • Bulgaria: 0.05%[citation needed]
  • Czech Republic: Zero[8]
  • Croatia: 0.05%[35]
  • Cyprus
  • Denmark: 0.05%, imprisonment if over 0.20%, zero if not driving safely. Fine: one months pay after taxes * (BAC*10).[36]
  • Estonia: 0.019%[37]
  • Finland: 0.05%,[8] 0.12% (aggravated). The penalty is a fine or jail up to 6 months plus license suspension from 1 month to 5 years. For aggravated, also a prison sentence (60 days to 2 years) is possible,[38] usually as a suspended sentence. Routine breath testing without a probable cause is permitted and often practiced. Penalties vary by level of intoxication.
  • France: 0.05% or 0.02% for bus drivers (€135 fine and 6 demerit points on the driver's license, which can be suspended for 3 years maximum),[8] 0.08% (aggravated, criminal offense, license suspension for 3 years, €4500 fine, and up to 2 years imprisonment)
  • Germany: Zero for beginners (less than 2 years' experience and drivers under the age of 21) as well as for professional drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers and drivers making commercial transportation of passengers; 0.03% in conjunction with any other traffic offense or accident; 0.05% without evidence of alcoholic impact (€500 fine and 1 month license suspension); penalty for 0.11% is a €500 fine and the drivers licence is withdrawn for at least six months, but usually about one year (penalty is set by the Court)); for 0.16% or higher regranting of the licence requires a successful Medical Psychological Assessment.[39] If someone is caught with more than 0.11% or higher within 10 Years of the last DUI incident with more than 0.05% and he´s found guilty of DUI, it carries a minimum €1.000 fine and a license suspension of at least one year, he has to take and pass successful an MPU and is required to prove to the Court that he has been sober for the last 12 months, before he can get his license back. Note that the fine is doubled for second offenders and so on, regardless of how much the driver was over the limit. Also, usually German Courts will hand out an extra €-fine to drivers for DUI offences, regardless of the already set penalty. If over 0.11%, the German Courts usually also require the DUI offender to do unpaid community service. Riding a bicycle in Germany, the limit is set to 0.16%, as long as the rider is not involved in an accident. If a cyclist is caught with more than 0.16%, he´s facing the same penalties as if he would have been driving a car with more than 0.16% of alcohol.[40]
  • Gibraltar: 0.05% [41]
  • Greece: 0.05% (BrAC 0.25 mg/L),[8] reduced to 0.02% (BrAC 0.10 mg/L) for unlicenced or new drivers who have held a license for less than 2 years, motor cycle and professional drivers. Above 0.11% (BrAC 0.60 mg/L) it's considered a flagrant misdemeanor punishable with up to 2 years of imprisonment and a hefty fine in the court plus the revoking of the drivers licence for 6 months. Routine breath testing without a probable cause is permitted and practiced by the traffic police, especially on weekends and major holidays.
  • Hungary: Zero
  • Ireland: 0.05% generally or 0.02% for learner drivers, newly qualified drivers (those who have their license for less than two years) and professional drivers, and those who do not have their driving license on them when stopped by the Gardaí (police).[42] Police do not need a reason to request a breath sample. Being convicted of drunk driving usually carries a 2-year ban as well as a €1500 fine.[43]
  • Italy: From 0.05% to 0.08% (€500-2000 fine, 3–6 months license suspension), from 0.08% to 0.15% (aggravated, €800-3200 fine, 6–12 months license suspension, up to 6 months imprisonment), over 0.15% (aggravated, €1500-6000 fine, 1–2 years license suspension, 6 to 12 months imprisonment, vehicle seizure and confiscation), zero for drivers with less than 3 years experience and professional drivers (bus, trucks etc...). License is always revoked in case of: professional drivers, second offence committed within two years or in case of an accident. If the driver refuses examination he is considered to have been under influence by default applying the over 0.15% rules.[44] Limit is zero for newly qualified drivers (those who have their license for less than three years). Routine breath testing without a probable cause is permitted and practiced by various law enforcement agencies.
  • Latvia: 0.02% for drivers with less than 2 years of experience and 0.05% for those with more than 2 years of experience
  • Lithuania: 0.02% for drivers with less than 2 years of experience and 0.04% for those with more than 2 years of experience[8]
  • Luxembourg: 0.02% for professional drivers and drivers with less than 2 years of experience and 0.05% for the rest (EUR 145 fine and 2 demerit points on the driving licence if caught). 0.08% earns you a citation, 0.12% means loss of license (since October 1, 2007) [45]
  • Malta: 0.08%[8]
  • Netherlands: 0.05%,[8] 0.02% for drivers with less than 5 years' experience
  • Poland: 0.02% (driving license banned from six months up to three years, prison up to one month), 0.05% (driving license banned from 1 year to 10 years, prison up to two years).[8] Limits and penalties for riding the bicycles were same as for motorized vehicles to December 2013. Almost half of people imprisoned for drunk driving were riding bicycles.[46]
  • Portugal: 0.05%[8]
  • Romania: 0.0%. Above 0.8 g/L imprisonment of 1 to 5 years. Under 0.8 g/L civil fine with possible suspended licence.[citation needed]
  • Slovakia: Zero[8]
  • Slovenia: Zero for drivers with 3 years or less experience and professional drivers, 0.24 mg/l (0.05%) for all others.[citation needed]
  • Spain: 0.05% (0,25 mg/l) [47] and 0.03% (0,15 mg/l) for drivers with less than 2 years experience and drivers of freight vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, and of passenger vehicles with more than 9 seats. Surpassing the limit is a serious offence, fined with €500.[48] Driving with an alcohol rate over 0.12% is a crime (up to 6 months imprisonment and license suspension up to 4 years).[49]
  • Sweden: 0.02% (up to 6 months imprisonment), 0.10% (imprisonment, maximum 2 years).[50]
  • United Kingdom
    • England and Wales: 80 mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, 35 μg per 100ml of breath or 107 mg per 100ml of urine.[51]
    • Scotland: 50 mg alcohol/100ml blood or 22mcg alcohol/100ml breath (legislation became effective from 5 December 2014)[52]
    • Northern Ireland: 80 mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. As of November 2014 results of a public consultation regarding reduction of this limit were being considered,[53] with a reduction to 50 being thought likely[54]

Further rules in the United Kingdom (UK)[edit]

In the UK, driving or attempting to drive whilst above the legal limit or unfit through drink carries a maximum penalty of six months' imprisonment, a fine of up to £5,000 and a minimum 12 months' disqualification. For a second offence committed within ten years of conviction, the minimum ban is three years. Being in charge of a vehicle whilst over the legal limit or unfit through drink could result in three months' imprisonment plus a fine of up to £2,500 and a driving ban. Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of alcohol or other drugs carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison, a minimum two-year driving ban and a requirement to pass an extended driving test before the offender is able to drive legally again.

It is an offence to refuse to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis. The penalties for refusing are the same as those for actually drunk driving.

The offence of driving whilst under the influence of alcohol is one to which there is no defence, as such (although defences such as duress or automatism, which are not specific to the offence of driving with excess alcohol, may apply in certain rare circumstances). However, it may be possible to argue that special reasons exist which are such that you should not be disqualified from driving despite having committed the offence. Special reasons are notoriously difficult to establish and the burden of proof is always upon the accused to establish them. Such reasons may include:

  • shortness of distance driven
  • unintentional commission of the offence (i.e. laced drinks)
  • emergencies

Magistrates' sentencing guidelines[edit]

In England and Wales when DWI offenders appear before a Magistrates Court, the magistrates have guidelines they refer to before they decide on a suitable sentence to give the offender. These guidelines are issued by the Sentencing Guidelines Council [55] and cover offences for which sentence is frequently imposed in a magistrates’ court when dealing with adult offenders.

Offences can either be tried summarily which means they can only be heard in the magistrates court or they can be either way offences which means magistrates may find their sentencing powers are insufficient and indict the case to crown court. The majority of drunk driving offences are summary only offences which can only be tried in a magistrates court. Only the most serious offences such as a collision and/or death/injury involved are indicted to crown court. The maximum sentence magistrates can usually impose is a £5000 fine and/or a six-month prison sentence.

As with England and Wales, road traffic law in Scotland is in the main framed within the Road Traffic Act 1988 as amended. Prosecution and disposal of drink-drive offences is broadly similar to England and Wales with less serious cases prosecuted on complaint through the sheriff summary courts. Cases involving aggravations, life-changing or fatal injuries are prosecuted on indictment via the sheriff solemn or high court. As with most UK-wide legislation, the penalties and sentencing guidelines for drunk driving in Scotland mirror those in effect in England and Wales.

Other European countries[edit]

  • Albania: 0.01%[8]
  • Belarus: 0,03%
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina: 0.031% [56]
  • Iceland: 0.05%[8]
  • Liechtenstein: 0.08%[citation needed]
  • Macedonia: Zero for professional drivers, public service drivers, commercial transport and drivers beginners, 0.05% for all others [57]
  • Moldova: 0.03%[8]
  • Norway: 0.02%.[8] Punishment depends on the alcohol level. 0.02% (fine, but one may also risk a suspended licence if any aggravated circumstances are present.), 0.05% (fine, suspended sentence and suspended license), 0.10% (fine, suspended or mandatory sentence and suspended license), 0.15% (fine, mandatory sentence and suspended license). The guidelines state that the fine for an alcohol level of more than 0.05% should be around 1.5 months base salary and usually not lower than 10.000 NOK. For 0.02-0.05% the fine is lower. Prison sentences are usually around 3 weeks to 3 months with a maximum of 1 year. The suspension period varies from less than a year to 2 years.[58]
  • Russian Federation: 0.0356% since 1 September 2013,[59][60] previously zero since 2010[61][62]
  • Switzerland: 0.05%[8]
  • Serbia: 0.03% for all, zero for motorcycle drivers, professional drivers, public service drivers, commercial transport and beginning drivers.[63] The official government plan is to make it zero for everyone in 2015.
  • Ukraine: 0.02%[citation needed]



A roadside warning in Victoria, Australia

Road laws are state or territory based, but all states and territories have set similar rules.

Australian law allow police officers to stop any driver and perform a random breath test without reason. Roadblocks can be set up - for example leading out of town centres on Friday and Saturday nights, or during football or other events - where every single driver will be breath-tested. This differs from UK and US laws, where police generally need a reason to suspect that the driver is intoxicated, before requesting a breath and/or sobriety test. It is an offence to refuse to provide a sample of breath when requested, with severe penalties including prison.[64]

Australian Capital Territory[edit]

  • Zero for drivers holding a learner, provisional, restricted or probationary license and for drivers operating heavy vehicles over 15t GVM or driving a public vehicle for hire or reward (for example taxi and bus drivers), and all motorcyclists.[65]
  • 0.05% for all other drivers.[65]

New South Wales[edit]

  • Zero for Learner and Provisional licences, and all motorcyclists.
  • 0.02% for Drivers of vehicles of "gross vehicle mass" greater than 13.9 tonnes, vehicles carrying dangerous goods or public vehicles such as a taxi or bus.
  • 0.05% for all other drivers
  • Zero limit for methamphetamine, Cannabis and MDMA.

Northern Territory[edit]

  • Zero for provisional (probationary) licence holders and all motorcyclists.
  • 0.05% for all other drivers.


  • A Zero limit applies to the drivers of trucks, buses, articulated vehicles, vehicles carrying dangerous goods, pilot vehicles, taxis, all learner drivers and provisional drivers and all motorcyclists.
  • 0.05% for other drivers.
  • Zero limit for methamphetamine, Cannabis and MDMA.

South Australia[edit]

  • Zero limit for learner, provisional, probationary, heavy (greater than 15 tonne) vehicle, taxis, licensed chauffeured vehicles, dangerous goods, and bus licenses.
  • 0.05% for all other drivers.
  • Zero limit for methamphetamine, Cannabis and MDMA.


  • Zero limit for learner, provisional, truck, bus, and taxi licences.
  • 0.05% for all other drivers.
  • Zero limit for methamphetamine, Cannabis and MDMA.


  • Zero limit applies for unlicensed drivers, holders of learner permits and probationary licences, "professional" drivers, and certain relicensed drunk-drivers.
  • Below 0.05% for most other drivers.
  • Zero limit for methamphetamine, Cannabis and MDMA.

There are also other restrictions for drivers in Victoria:

  • Limits apply within 3 hours of driving - that is, police can require a person to submit to an alcohol or drugs test within 3 hours of driving and it is an offense to fail that test, unless the drug or alcohol use occurred after driving (see Road Safety Act 1986, ss. 49, 53 and 55E).
  • Licenses canceled for certain serious drunk-driving offenses may only be reissued after obtaining a court order. This is the case for repeat offenders, and first offenders above 0.15% . In such cases, the relicensed driver is subject to a zero limit for 3 years following relicensing, or for as long as the person is required to use an alcohol interlock.
  • Alcohol interlocks must be imposed whenever a repeat drunk-driver is relicensed.
  • A court also has discretion to impose an alcohol interlock when relicensing a first offender in certain serious cases, generally when the offense involves a BAC of 0.15% or higher.
  • The law requires interlocks to be used for certain minimum periods, but the requirement to use an interlock does not automatically end at the completion of the minimum period. Once that period has expired, an individual may apply to a court to have the interlock condition removed from their driver's licence. The State Police must be given notice of the application and may make submissions to the court on whether the interlock condition should be removed. The court will also take into account data recorded by the interlock itself (e.g. whether any attempts were made to start the vehicle by a person who had been drinking).
  • Driving without an interlock when one is required carries severe penalties, including imprisonment.
  • If a doctor sees any patient who is aged 15 years or over as a result of a motor vehicle accident, the patient must allow the doctor to take a blood sample for testing for alcohol and drug content in a way that preserves the chain of evidence. If this process is skipped the doctor may not be able to discover the alcohol blood level. The results can be used as evidence in subsequent court proceedings.
  • The law allows a police officer to require any driver (or any person who has driven a vehicle within the last three hours) to perform a random saliva test for methamphetamine, Cannabis or MDMA, all of which are subject to a zero limit (see Road Safety Act 1986: ss. 49, 55E & 55D)

Western Australia[edit]

  • 0.02% for learner, provisional (probationary) licence holders (0.00% as from July 1, 2008) or persons convicted of driving under the influence (for three years after the offense) and failing to comply with a request for breath, blood or urine (for three years after the offense).
  • 0.05% for all other drivers.

Readings over 0.08% but under 0.15% BAC, and 0.15% BAC and above (legally defined as Drunk Driving) comprise separate offenses, the latter attracting heavier penalties. Persistent offenders may be barred from driving for terms up to and including life, and may also be imprisoned.

The law allows a police officer to require any driver to perform a random saliva test for methamphetamine, Cannabis or MDMA, all of which are subject to a zero limit.

New Zealand[edit]

New Zealand operates a program called Compulsory Breath Testing, which allows police to stop motorists at any time. CBT is usually carried out at roadside checkpoints but mobile patrol cars can also randomly stop motorists to administer a test. The police also carry out roadside drug tests upon motorists they suspect have used drugs.[66]

The system in New Zealand is age-based.[67] Since midnight on 1 December 2014, the limits are:

  • Zero limit for persons under 20 years.
  • 0.05% BAC or 250μg/L breath for persons 20 years and over.

The penalties for exceeding the limits are:

  • Persons under 20 years, up to 0.03% BAC / 150μg/L breath - instant NZ$200 fine and 50 demerit points.
  • Persons under 20 years, 0.03% to 0.08% BAC / 150μg/L to 400μg/L breath - up to 3 months imprisonment and/or up to NZ$2250 fine; loss of licence for three months or more.
  • Persons 20 years and over, 0.05% to 0.08% BAC / 250μg/L to 400μg/L breath - instant NZ$200 fine and 50 demerit points. 12 hour prohibition from driving immediately after[68]
  • All persons over 0.08% BAC / 400μg/L breath (first and second offenses) - up to 3 months imprisonment and/or up to NZ$4500 fine; loss of licence for six months or more.
  • All persons over 0.08% BAC / 400μg/L breath (third and subsequent offenses) - 2 years imprisonment; NZ$6000 fine; loss of licence for one year or more.

On 4 November 2013, the government announced that the limit would be reduced to 0.05% BAC with instant fines and demerit points being imposed on those between 0.05 and 0.08%. Legislation was passed in New Zealand's Parliament in August 2014 with a date where the new limits take effect announced on December 1, 2014.[69]

Note that penalties apply to the lowest reading taken across both breath and blood tests. For example, if a driver 20 years or over has a breath test result of 426μg/L but a subsequent blood test returns 0.077% BAC, then the driver is not charged with any drink driving offence despite the breath reading being over the breath alcohol limit. The penalty for injuring or killing someone when under the influences is the same as dangerous driving (up to 5 years imprisonment and/or up to NZ$20,000; loss of licence for one year or more).

Other countries in Oceania[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.legislation.gov.hk/blis_pdf.nsf/6799165D2FEE3FA94825755E0033E532/0F3C05FB856FD674482575EE0076F32C/$FILE/CAP_374_e_b5.pdf.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ 飲酒運転の罰則等 (in Japanese). Metropolitan Police Department. Retrieved 15 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "The SOFA and You". USFK. Retrieved 13 November 2014. 
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  5. ^ In April 2010 Vientiane Traffic Police Department launched operation A+E (Awareness and Enforcement) to crack down on driving offences including drunk driving. The KPL Lao news release April 6, 2010 mentions the national legal limit as 80 mg.
  6. ^ "What is the legal limit of alcohol in the blood?". Department of Chemistry Malaysia. 2014-11-17. Retrieved 2014-12-05. 
  7. ^ "Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits Worldwide". Icap.org. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Blood Alcohol Concentration Limits Worldwide, International Centre For Policy Studies. Page retrieved 30 October 2006
  9. ^ "Alcohol and Driving". Ministry of Transport. Retrieved 2 July 2012. 
  10. ^ Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights (May 1999). "Toward Eliminating Impaired Driving — Chapter 2: Legislative Background". Parliament of Canada. Retrieved 2008-04-14. 
  11. ^ a b "Canada DUI Entry: Enter Canada With A DUI Offence". FW Canada. 
  12. ^ "Man gets 6 years for drunk driving". CBC News. 2005-12-05. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  13. ^ See, e.g., Cal. Vehicle Code sec. 23152(a) and (b) retrieved October 8, 2008
  14. ^ See, e.g., N.Y. Vehicle and traffic law, section 1192, found at New York Assembly official web site. Go to "Bill Search and Legislative Materials", then "New York State Laws." Accessed March 17, 2008.
  15. ^ E.g., People v. Cosko, 152 Cal. App. 3d 54, 199 Cal. Rptr. 289 (1984), citing Cal. Penal Code sec. 654
  16. ^ Walters, Steven. "First drunken driving offense shouldn't be a crime, Van Hollen says" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel17 Jan 2009.
  17. ^ Puerto Rico OKs one lowest drunk-driving limits
  18. ^ 49 CFR 382.20
  19. ^ "Traffic Safety Facts 200 6 Data". NHTSA. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  20. ^ 14 CFR 91.17, also known as Federal Air Regulation 91.17
  21. ^ http://www.marincountyduilawyer.net/dui/faq/
  22. ^ "Virginia DUI Explained by a Virginia Lawyer". 
  23. ^ a b "Virginia DUI Punishments". 
  24. ^ "Penalties for Driving While Intoxicated in Virginia". 
  25. ^ DUI/DWI laws, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, February 2010
  26. ^ Florida Administrative Suspension Laws (Accessed 14 May 2008)
  27. ^ "Police: Zero tolerance for young drivers". Trinidad Express. Retrieved 29 September 2013. 
  28. ^ "Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act". Retrieved 29 September 2013. 
  29. ^ [2]
  30. ^ Imprensa Nacional - Presidência da República / Casa Civil, Diário Oficial da União - Seção 1 - Edição 20 de 29/01/2013, Pag. 30
  31. ^ Imprensa Nacional - Presidência da República / Casa Civil, Diário Oficial da União - Seção 1 - Edição 20 de 29/01/2013, Pag. 31
  32. ^ Chile Transit Law, Articles 110, 193 and 196. Chile Library of Congress, accessed on 18 March 2012.
  33. ^ "Tolerancia cero: ni una cerveza si va a conducir - Noticias de Justicia en Colombia". Eltiempo.Com. 2013-12-21. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  34. ^ ETSC Fact Sheet, Belgium, January 2011
  35. ^ "Zakonske odredbe". mup.hr. 2014-01-21. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  36. ^ "Straf for spritkørsel | Sikker Trafik". Sikkertrafik.dk. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  37. ^ Liiklusseadus [Traffic Act]. In Estonian. Riigi Teataja
  38. ^ "Rattijuopumuksen seuraukset". Poliisi.fi. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  39. ^ and carries a €500 fine and a minimum license suspension of one year, but usually carries out a higher suspension as prerequisites for regranting of licences
  40. ^ (http://www.mz-web.de/politik/alkohol-im-strassenverkehr-promille-grenze-fuer-radfahrer-bleibt-bei-1-6,20642162,24936596.html)
  41. ^ UK Government Advice on Gibraltar Page retrieved 30 October 2006.
  42. ^ RTÉ News - New drink-driving laws in effect (29 October 2011)
  43. ^ Irish Independent - "One pint too much as drive limit cut"
  44. ^ Automobile Club d'Italia art. 186 / 186 bis c.d.s.
  45. ^ police.lu - Extrait de quelques infractions au code de la route
  46. ^ "Wyroki na pijanych kierowców i pijanych rowerzystów [INFOGRAFIKA]" (in Polish). Wiadomosci.gazeta.pl. 2012-08-14. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  47. ^ El alcohol y la conducción (page in Spanish). Page retrieved 30 October 2006.
  48. ^ New Traffic Law
  49. ^ Traffic crime
  50. ^ Google Answers: Drunk driving in Sweden.
  51. ^ "Drink driving and the legal alcohol limit". drinkaware. June 6, 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-12. 
  52. ^ ScottishGovernment - News - Lower drink drive limit, 24 October 2014
  53. ^ DOE Northern Ireland: Road safety consultations; see section "Drink Driving: Consultation on the Road Traffic (Drink Driving) (Amendment) Bill and Additional Measures to Tackle Drink and Drug Driving in Northern Ireland"
  54. ^ Scotland to reduce drink-drive limit, BBC
  55. ^ Sentencing Guidelines Council
  56. ^ Bosnia and Herzegovina Touring Tips - South East Europe
  57. ^ No.234 [3] in Macedonian
  58. ^ [4](page in Norwegian). Page retrieved 21. June 2011.
  59. ^ "Russia lifts zero permille limit for drunk driving". bbcrussian. 2013-07-24. 
  60. ^ "Russian drivers to be allowed to have slight alcohol content in blood". Itar-tass. 2013-07-26. 
  61. ^ (Russian) Medvedev signed the law, completely abolishing any alcohol limits. Even minimal alcohol content will lead to revoking of the driving licence [5]
  62. ^ "Medvedev signs total drink driving ban". RIAN. 2010-07-23. 
  63. ^ Serbia Touring Tips - South East Europe
  64. ^ "Can a Person Refuse a Breathalyser Test? And Other Questions Related to Drink Driving". Findlaw.com.au. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  65. ^ a b "Drunk Driving Penalties". CFS Canberra. October 7, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-07. 
  66. ^ "Alcohol and drugs limits". Wellington: New Zealand Transport Authority. 29 May 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2013. 
  67. ^ [6] LTSA website
  68. ^ Land Transport Amendment Act (no 2) 2014[7]
  69. ^ Drink drive limit lowered Stuff.co.nz

External links[edit]