Drink-Driving In Singapore: 5 Things To Note

by | Oct 15, 2023 | Blog

drink driving in singapore

Many countries have laws that penalise drink-driving. Drink-driving refers to getting behind the wheel of a vehicle after heavy alcohol consumption. Also known as driving under the influence (DUI), drink-driving can lead to penalties, punishments, and a potential loss of life.

People can be charged with drink-driving in Singapore if they exceed the legal alcohol limit. In Singapore, the limit stands at 35 mg of alcohol for every 100 mL of breath or 80 mg of alcohol for every 100 mL of blood. A person can’t be found guilty of driving under the influence if they do not exceed the stated limit.

Drink-Driving Related Statistics In Singapore

Here’s a brief picture of drink driving in Singapore during the years 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Number Of Drink-Driving Cases 

The number of cases increased by more than 20 per cent from 2020 to 2021. In the first half of 2020, the number of cases was 64. In the first half of 2021, the number of cases was at 77

Drink-Driving-Related Accidents

The figures from 2019 to 2020 showed a drop in drink-driving-related accidents (162 to 146). One possible explanation for this is the COVID-19 prevention measures. During this period, the state ordered the closure of nightlife establishments and bars to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Fatal Drink-Driving Accidents

However, fatal drink-driving accidents increased by more than 16% in the first half of 2021 compared to the first half of 2020 (2,946 to 2,530).

Drink-driving is a punishable crime that leads to penalties and even deaths. If you don’t want to become part of the statistics, you must pay close attention to the laws against drink-driving. Be more aware of road rules and etiquette.

Drink-Driving Penalties In Singapore

Drink Driving Penalties In Singapore

In general, drink driving and other reckless driving related incidents in Singapore are penalised under the Road Traffic Act (RTA). The RTA is a crucial piece of legislation that regulates the behaviour of road users and motor vehicle use in Singapore.

Common driving offences outlined in the RTA include:

  • Reckless/dangerous driving
  • Using of mobile phone while driving
  • DUI

Drink Driving Penalties Based On The RTA

According to section 67 of the RTA, you can be guilty of drink-driving if you fall into the following categories:

  1. You are unfit to drink if you are under the influence of intoxicating substances. Consumption of these substances renders you incapable of adequately manoeuvring/driving the vehicle.
  2. You have breached the legal alcohol blood limit.

As mentioned, the legal limit in Singapore stands at 80 mg of alcohol per 100 mL of blood. The officer will oblige you to provide a breath specimen or conduct a breath test on you. Refusal to comply will result in arrest, even without a warrant.

If you are convicted of drink-driving, you will be slapped with a penalty of at least $2,000, not exceeding $10,000. Additionally, you may also face jail time of up to 12 months. Meanwhile, repeat offenders will be fined between $5,000 to $20,000 with term imprisonment not exceeding 2 years.

Other Punishments For Drink-Driving In Singapore

Aside from fines and jail terms, there are other punishments against drink-drivers in Singapore. These include:

  • Suspension of licence
  • Forfeiture of vehicle
  • Disqualification from driving
  • Inability to make insurance claims after a drink-driving accident (if you are the perpetrator)

Suspension Of Licence

The Traffic Police may suspend your driving licence immediately if you’re caught driving under the influence. This is to ensure no irresponsible drivers are on the road until the Courts can decide on their cases.

Forfeiture Of Vehicle

The Court may also order that your vehicle be forfeited if you have committed offences related to DUI.

Disqualification From Driving

The prosecution will ask the Court to fine or disqualify the offender from driving if the offender pleads guilty to the drink-driving charge.

If the person is a first-time offender, meaning they have no prior conviction for drink driving, the Court will require them to pay a fine amounting between $2,000 and $10,000. They may also serve a maximum of a 12-month imprisonment. The driver will receive a 2-year minimum ban from driving, unless the Court has special reasons not to disqualify the driver.

A repeat or two-time offender will be jailed for a maximum of 2 years. The Court will also impose a maximum fine of $5,000 penalty (not exceeding $20,000). The offender cannot drive for a minimum of 5 years. A Court order breach, if caught, will possibly result in more fines and further punishment.

Inability To Make Insurance Claims

Most insurers will refuse a policy claim on car damages resulting from drink-driving. They will not pay for expenses from damages, injuries, or loss, no matter what kind of insurance policy you have. They may also reject claims under comprehensive car insurance. Offenders risk shouldering legal fees, vehicular repair/maintenance costs, and other medical expenses.

How Does The Court Sentence Drink-Driving Offenders?

Drink-Driving Offenders

The Court will consider two factors when deciding an appropriate sentence for a convicted drink-driver:

  1. The extent of the harm caused by the offence
  2. The degree of the offender’s culpability for the offence

Extent Of The Harm Caused By The Offence

The Court will examine the extent of the harm resulting from the drink-driving offence. The extent of harm can be categorised into the following:

  • Slight – Minor property damage and/or minor physical injury. The victim of the incident was not hospitalised or put on medical leave.
  • Moderate – Moderate property damage and/or personal injury. The victim was hospitalised and put on medical leave. However, the injuries are easily treatable. They were not impaired with any permanent injuries or fractures.
  • Serious – The victim sustained personal injury involving fractures, permanent injuries, and/or injuries that required extensive surgical procedures.
  • Very Serious – Amputation, loss of sight/hearing, or any other debilitating injuries that have physically impaired the victim.

Degree Of The Offender’s Culpability For The Offence

The offender’s culpability depends on how recklessly they drove while under the influence. The Court will also assess the extent to which the offender has breached the legal alcohol limit.

  • Low – The Court did not find any evidence showing dangerous driving, and the alcohol level is low (35 to 54 mg per 100 mL of breath).
  • Medium – The Court found evidence of dangerous driving behaviour or the alcohol level is moderate (55 to 69 mg per 100 mL of breath).
  • High – The Court found evidence of dangerous driving behaviour and an alcohol level exceeding 70 mg per 100 mL of breath.

What Can You Do If You’re Charged For Drink-Driving

You don’t want to be liable for drink-driving as much as possible. The best way to avoid this is to be a responsible motorist. For example, if you’re heading out to a party for the night and you expect to be intoxicated, don’t bring a vehicle to the venue. Book a riding service instead.

Additionally, it’s a good habit to drink moderately. Don’t consume any more alcohol than you can manage. Have a friend to look out for you when attending events involving liquor.

From a legal standpoint, being charged for a drink-driving offence can be stressful. If you find yourself in this situation, seek a free consultation from an experienced criminal lawyer in Singapore.

We may be able to help you reduce your sentence depending on these factors:

  • Your previous drink-driving or traffic-related offences, or lack thereof
  • Your behaviour throughout the sentencing
  • Mitigating factors (For example, you are remorseful about the incident. You have taken strides to make amends with the injured party through financial compensation and other means of support)

Conclusion About The Drink Driving Penalty In Singapore

Singapore laws and its Courts are almost unforgiving against drink-drivers. The outcome of any drink-driving sentencing depends on the many factors discussed above. No matter how many excuses an offender may make to absolve themselves of drink-driving liabilities, the Court won’t entertain them.

But if you’re an upstanding citizen and think you’ve been unjustifiably handed out a harsh drink-driving penalty in Singapore, there is legal recourse for you. You may not be able to overturn a drink-driving charge, but we may be able to reduce the punishment the Courts have handed down.

Get in touch with us now! We offer a free 30-minute consultation to discuss the details and possible actions to take regarding your case. Trust the best criminal lawyer in Singapore to help you out with criminal law-related concerns.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Drink Driving Penalty In Singapore

Can I Lose My Job If Found Guilty Of Drink-Driving?

Yes, the outcome of your drink-driving charge may impact your employment status. If an employer explicitly requests information regarding your criminal history (if any), withholding a drink-driving conviction may make you criminally liable.

Will A Drink-Driving Offence Stay On My Record?

Yes. If found guilty, a drink-driving conviction or DR10 endorsement can remain on your licence for up to 11 years. A DR10 is an endorsement code that the police use on your record. This code means that you have been driving or made attempts to drive while your blood alcohol exceeded the legal limit.

How Will The Police Determine Drink Driving?

The police will use a breathalyser to get an accurate result. If the breathalyser displays a reading above 35 mg per 100 mL, then the driver may be subject to further inquiries regarding drink driving behaviour.

How Long Should I Wait Before Driving After Drinking Alcohol?

It depends on your tolerance. For example, if you’ve had 3 drinks, it’s best to wait at least 4 hours before your body has flushed out some of the liquor.

About the author

About the author

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan is the Founder and Managing Director of Tembusu Law. He is also the founder of LawGuide Singapore, a prominent legaltech startup which successfully created and launched Singapore’s first legal chatbot in 2017.