Drinking and driving affects millions of people across the world. Different countries have each tried their own solutions toward curbing this problem, with some areas having harsh penalties for those who violate drinking and driving laws. No matter where you live, it is important to remember that if you drive impaired you put other people's lives at risk. Additionally, those drivers who get pulled over for driving while intoxicated may find themselves faced with fines, a loss of license, or even jail time.
If you find yourself charged with driving impaired, your first step after dealing with the incident should be to reach out to a knowledgeable lawyer in your area. You will need their legal expertise to explain driving law in your area and to help you map out the best possible legal strategy. Driving laws vary greatly from country to country and even throughout different regions in certain countries. No single article can explain the full consequences of drunk driving in every different region, but the information below can serve as a starting point to help you enhance your understanding of drunk driving laws in your area. The information you are about to read is last updated to include laws passed at the close of 2018 and beginning of 2019. Consider it carefully, and always be ready to speak with your lawyer for more details.
Drinking and Driving Laws in Canada
In the 21 st century, Canada has passed significant drunk driving legislation that covers alcohol intoxication. A Canadian bill that took effect in 2019 also provided guidelines on impairment via cannabis and watching a video on a mobile device or eating food behind the wheel. The RCMP has made impaired driving a top priority as well. In terms of alcohol intoxication, the threshold for impaired drivers is based on blood alcohol content. If a police officer pulls you over under suspicion of impaired driving, you may have to go through a breathalyzer test. If the test indicates that your blood alcohol content is more than 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, you face consequences under the region's impaired driving law.
In some provinces, such as Ontario, you may also face consequences for violation of impaired driving laws if a police officer catches you driving with a blood alcohol content of between 50 and 80 milligrams per 100 millitres. This is known as the "warn range." While it doesn't carry the same severe penalties that drunk driving does under modern impaired driving legislation, you may still face a fine. If you have previous arrests in violation of impaired driving regulations, you may face additional legal penalties. A drunk driving lawyer with experience in dealing with Canada's impairment laws can provide you with a full breakdown of the potential penalties and your best defense strategy.
By law, the penalties for driving drunk in Canada are quite severe compared to many other countries. Those who are found to be in violation of impaired driving laws often face a mandatory $1,000 fine and can have up to a 12 month driving prohibition. A second offence can result in jail time of up to 30 days unless you have an excellent legal defense that can reduce the charges. Many DUI charges result in the requirement that you drive a vehicle with an ignition interlock, which requires that you prove your sobriety before starting the car. Since the legalization of marijuana, Canada has passed legislation that further tightens and codifies these laws, making it very expensive to get caught drinking and driving even if you have no other offences on your record.
Drunk driving is also considered a criminal offence in Canada. This means that it goes into your personal record and cannot be removed at any time. Even moving to a different location will not help; if you get arrested for drunk driving in Toronto but later move to Vancouver, the criminal offence will follow you. There are certain ways to keep the criminal charge from hitting your record, such as having a lawyer demonstrate that the offence does not demonstrate a pattern of behavior or disputing the procedures used by the arresting officer. In most cases, however, a criminal offence can affect your ability to get a job or apply for certain types of credit in Canada. You may have to seek a pardon through the office of the Prime Minister to improve your career aspirations.
To avoid getting your license suspended or facing fines and other penalties, you should make sure to cooperate with the police fully, especially if the arresting officer smells alcohol on your breath. Being belligerent or disobedient during a sobriety test is a good way to have the law turn against you early. At the same time, take note of the arresting officer's behavior toward you. Don't try any fancy tricks to fool the breathalyzer test, as nothing short of time can change your blood alcohol concentration. After you have cooperated with the police, write down all the facts as you remember them, including activities that may have affected the level of alcohol concentration in your blood. After that, it's time to turn things over to a DUI lawyer who can help you. That lawyer will examine all the relevant facts, including police behavior and alcohol concentration in your blood, and help you with your defense. Foreigners should keep a record of all convictions from other countries, as you must report alcohol-related violations from the past 10 years if requested.
Drinking and Driving Laws in the USA
Drunk driving laws in the United States have federal guidelines but vary from state to state in terms of severity, testing requirements, and even what substances are prohibited within the cab of the vehicle. However, certain aspects of drunk driving law apply across the country, no matter what state you happen to be in. This includes the legal limit of blood alcohol concentration, which is 0.08%. Those who are under 21 years old may face even stricter requirements in some states, with certain areas counting a child as drunk with a concentration of 0.02% and some states declaring a driver born before a certain date to be drunk if there is any alcohol in the system at all. Travelers should take care to avoid drinking and driving at all costs, as it is not always easy to identify which local laws apply.
A typical traffic stop sees a police officer first use a field sobriety test to determine a person's level of intoxication. This serves additional purposes other than just determining a person's level of intoxication. When a person refuses the participating in the sobriety test, it alerts the officer that there may be additional substances in the vehicle or the possible presence of illegal drugs. This may call for additional tests or a search of the vehicle. If you believe that you can pass a breathalyzer test, there is nothing to fear from cooperating with the police in this situation. Failure to do so could keep you occupied for hours instead of giving you a chance to go on your way.
Unless you provide a police officer with cause to believe that you are guilty of another crime, the penalty for a first time drinking and driving offence may be as light as only a fine and some community service. On the other hand, those who have an existing criminal record may find themselves facing penalties that are more serious. Additional crimes, such as traffic violations or trying to resist arrest, could create more problems for you as well. In most cases, it is wise to simply cooperate and make a record of the arrest, then fight the charges in a court of law. Whether a drinking and driving violation counts as a criminal offence or simply a misdemeanor depends largely on the criminal code of the specific state.
Statistics show that more than 10,000 people die in the United States every year due to drunk driving. If you are driving while impaired and reports indicate that you caused any sort of property damage or injury while behind the wheel, you will find yourself held liable for the monetary and potential criminal penalties associated with that crime. Even if the charge against you seems relatively minor, you should immediately seek out the services of a knowledgeable DUI lawyer who has experience with the area where you faced your arrest. Regional experience is especially important in the United States, as the laws can vary so greater from one state to the next. The longer your lawyer has tried cases in the area, the better your chances of avoiding fines and jail time become.
Like Canada, certain areas in the United States have removed marijuana from their criminal drug lists. However, that does not mean that you can drive freely while smoking marijuana or while under the influence of another cannabis-based drug. The states where marijuana has been legalized have penalties for impaired driving that include cannabis. Some consider driving while high to be a greater crime than driving while under the influence of alcohol. If you don't know what could impair you and cause trouble, always err on the side of caution.
Drinking and Driving Laws in Germany
The drinking and driving laws throughout Europe are closely related, with some variance in terms of what counts as intoxicated but little room for a person to drink significantly and then immediately get behind the wheel of a vehicle. Before you hit the roads in Germany, you should be sure that your blood alcohol content is less than the legal limit of 0.05%. This limit applies to both residents and travelers, so there is no way to use ignorance of the law as an excuse. Germany also has penalties for biking while impaired, and cyclists riding in public with a blood alcohol content of 0.16% or higher face the same penalties as an automobile driver.
First-time offenders in Germany are required to pay a €500 penalty and lose their driver's license for a month. These penalties increase if you are more heavily intoxicated. Germany's rules increase the fines and license suspension times for driving at 0.11% and higher, as this level of intoxication presents both a higher danger to the public and a potential health risk for the driver. Among other things, a drunk driving lawyer in Germany will examine the police report to determine how intoxicated you allegedly were at the time of the traffic stop.
Drinking and Driving Laws in France
In France, getting stopped on the roadside with a blood alcohol content of 0.05% or higher can result in a €135 fine and six demerit points on your driver's license. National law applies this penalty more harshly toward new drivers with under three years of experience, as their legal limit is merely 0.02%. If a blood sample demonstrates that the amount of alcohol is 0.08% or higher, the case becomes a criminal offence which could result in a €4,500 fine and up to two years in prison.
It is technically not illegal for passengers to drink while a car is on the road, although it is almost always a bad idea to do so. Not only will finding alcohol in the vehicle not please the arresting officer, but it becomes more difficult to prove the driver's sobriety if the passengers are already intoxicated. When thinking about alcohol in your vehicle, consider what a police officer should think if you get pulled over for erratic driving. Even if you know the driver can pass a screening test, giving a police officer any extra reason to look through the vehicle could turn up other violations. Whether to avoid trouble or to protect your personal privacy and articles from government inspection, it is a good idea not to give a police officer more excuses to detain you.
Drinking and Driving Laws in England
Like Canada, the legal limit for drinking and driving in England and Wales for an adult man is 0.08%. Its penalties for violation could reach a maximum of €5,000 and 12 months without a driver's license. However, it is worth noting that there is room for leniency in Britain's laws, as courts factor reasonable excuses such as the shortness of the distance driven, the possibility that you unknowingly imbibed alcohol, and emergency cases. If you submit evidence of these circumstances in court, they could decrease your fines to €500 or less and might reduce the length of a license suspension.
Also like Canada, England has strict laws against distracted driving. This includes looking at a phone menu for the weather, watching sports videos or news, checking email, or doing a search ona social media account on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Such behavior accounts for many a death every year, and that number is constantly on the rise. As such, police officers can lawfully demand to know what you were doing if they notice erratic driving and might take notice if you act strangely, whether the stop occurs during the day or at night. Before driving in England or any other location away from home, it helps to remember your right to speak with a lawyer and the potential penalties for criminal action.
Above all else, you should try to avoid drinking and driving regardless of where you are or what stories you may have heard. When traveling, make it your policy to know the rules of the road if you are driving, whether in a foreign country or back at home. No sign or guidepost broadcasts the potential penalties, but knowing them can help protect you, support your rights, and save others on the road from accident and injury. The best way to win legal contests now is often to avoid them entirely. Failure to protect yourself and others means that you may have a jail cell reserved for you.