Drunk driving law by country

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The laws of driving under the influence vary between by countries.

Laws by country - Blood/Alcohol Limit[edit]

Asia[edit]

Central Asia[edit]

East Asia[edit]

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]

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.

South Asia[edit]

Southeast Asia[edit]

Western Asia[edit]

Africa[edit]

North America[edit]

Canada[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.[7]

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:

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).[8] 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.[8]

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.[9]

Mexico[edit]

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.[10] The first is the traditional offense, variously called driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), driving while intoxicated/impaired (DWI)[11] 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.[12] 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.[13]

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. [5]. DUI-impairment statutes require that violations be supported by evidence of impairment as a result of the drugs or drugs and alcohol, 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.[14]

The blood-alcohol limit for commercial drivers is 0.04%.[15] 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." [16]

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.[17]

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.
California[edit]

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[18]

Virginia[edit]

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.[19] 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.[20] A third offense is a felony in Virginia.[20]

Like California, the punishment for a DUI is aggrevated 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.[21]

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 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]

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.

Caribbean[edit]

Central America[edit]

South America[edit]

Europe[edit]

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".

United Kingdom[edit]

80 mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, 35 μg per 100ml of breath or 107 mg per 100ml of urine.[47] Scotland is currently running a public consultation on reducing the limit to 50 mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.[48]

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 drink or 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:

UK 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 [49] 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 is 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]

Oceania[edit]

Australia[edit]

A roadside warning in Victoria, Australia.

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

In Australia, laws 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.[59]

Australian Capital Territory[edit]
New South Wales[edit]
Northern Territory[edit]
Queensland[edit]
South Australia[edit]
Tasmania[edit]
Victoria[edit]

There are also other restrictions for drivers in Victoria:

Western Australia[edit]

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.[61]

The system in New Zealand is age-based.[62] Since midnight on 7 August 2011, the limits are:

The penalties for exceeding the limits are:

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%. No date for when the new regime would apply were announced as legislation would need to passed in New Zealand's Parliament.[63]

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]

References[edit]

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  12. ^ E.g., People v. Cosko, 152 Cal. App. 3d 54, 199 Cal. Rptr. 289 (1984), citing Cal. Penal Code sec. 654
  13. ^ Walters, Steven. "First drunken driving offense shouldn't be a crime, Van Hollen says" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel17 Jan 2009.
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  15. ^ 49 CFR 382.20
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  17. ^ 14 CFR 91.17, also known as Federal Air Regulation 91.17
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  19. ^ "Virginia DUI Explained by a Virginia Lawyer". 
  20. ^ a b "Virginia DUI Punishments". 
  21. ^ "Penalties for Driving While Intoxicated in Virginia". 
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  40. ^ Automobile Club d'Italia art. 186 / 186 bis c.d.s.
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  45. ^ Traffic crime
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  49. ^ Sentencing Guidelines Council
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External links[edit]