Being found guilty of driving while above the legal drink driving alcohol limit will result in punishment that could affect the rest of your life.

It is a criminal offence and the penalty will be decided by the magistrates who hear the case in court1. To minimise the risks, including causing harm to yourself and others, the safest advice is to avoid any alcohol when driving.

Drink driving offences and penalties

If a person is found guilty of drink driving they can be fined, banned from driving or even imprisoned. These punishments depend on the seriousness of the offence which according to include:

  • Being in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink. This could result in 3 months’ imprisonment, up to £2500 fine or a possible driving ban.
  • Driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink. A person could get 6 months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine or a driving ban for at least 1 year (3 years if convicted twice in 10 years).
  • Refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis. Refusal could lead to 6 months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine or a ban from driving for at least 1 year.
  • Causing death by careless driving when under the influence of drink. This serious offence could result in 14 years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, a ban from driving for at least 2 years or an extended driving test before your licence is returned.

High risk offenders

‘High risk offenders’ will need to pass a medical examination to get their licence back after a drink driving ban. You are considered a high risk offender if you:

  • Were convicted of 2 drink-driving offences within 10 years
  • Were driving with an alcohol reading of at least 87.5 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath, 200 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, or 267.5 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine
  • Refused to give the police a sample of breath, blood or urine to test for alcohol 
  • Refused to allow a sample of your blood to be tested for alcohol (e.g. if it was taken when you were unconscious)

Drink driving convictions: the consequences

Being convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol a number of effects on everyday life, beyond a drink driving fine or ban. 

You could lose your job, particularly if you drive for work as your employer will see this on your licence. You may also find it difficult to seek employment in the future.

If and when you are legally allowed to drive again, it won’t be cheap. Car insurance costs increase significantly after a drink driving conviction. The Institute of Advanced Motorists calculate that a drink drive conviction could cost between £20,000 - £50,000 as a result of fines, solicitors fees, increase in car insurance and loss of job (2).

As with any criminal record, you may even find it hard to enter other countries such as the USA and this can affect life plans to holiday, work or study abroad.

Drink driving isn’t worth the risks

In 2013, there were 8290 casualties as a result of drink driving in the UK. 260 of those resulted in death (3). By drinking and driving you pose these risks to yourself, other drivers and pedestrians, and if found guilty the consequences could last a life time.

It’s not possible to know how much you can drink to stay below the legal drink driving limit, because there are factors such as your weight, gender, age and metabolism to consider. That’s why the safest advice is to avoid alcohol if you are driving, even the morning after drinking alcohol.

Learn how to report a drink driver

How to avoid drink driving

  • With your friends, arrange a designated driver for the night – this is a person who is happy to abstain from alcohol to drive everyone home safely
  • Take advantage of transport and keep a couple of taxi numbers to hand 
  • Stick to soft drinks, mocktails or zero alcohol beers if you are driving
  • Try an alternative to pubs and clubs with an alcohol free night out idea

Get the facts about the legal drink driving limit