DUI: Here are the Penalties for Drink-Driving in Singapore

Last updated on November 1, 2019

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The number of drink-driving cases and imprisonment sentences meted out in Singapore have risen tremendously. In 2011, there were 520 drink-driving cases in which 14 were given imprisonment sentences. In 2016, this increased to 1,340 cases in which 187 were given imprisonment sentences.

Before you add yourself to this statistical data owing to a moment of high or convenience, pay close attention to this.

What is the Offence of Drink-Driving?

You are guilty of drink driving under section 67 of the Road Traffic Act (RTA) if you:

  1. Are unfit to drive under the influence of alcohol to the extent you are incapable of having proper control of the vehicle; or
  2. Exceed the legal alcohol limit

The legal alcohol limit in Singapore is 35 microgrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath, or 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood. Police officers can require you to provide a breath specimen for a preliminary breath test. If you refuse to comply, you can be arrested without a warrant.

What are the Maximum Penalties for Drink-Driving?

If you are convicted of drink-driving, you are liable to a fine of between $2,000 and $10,000 and/or up to 1 year’s jail for a first-time offence. Repeat offenders face fines of between $5,000 and $20,000 and up to 2 years’ jail.

Offenders will also be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver’s licence for at least 2 years (or at least 5 years for repeat offenders). This is unless the court has special reasons to order a shorter period of disqualification (or no disqualification at all). The period of disqualification may also be even longer if the offender has also been convicted of dangerous driving or careless driving.

How is the Sentence for Drink-Drivers Decided?

When deciding the appropriate sentence for a driver convicted of drink-driving, the court will consider the following two factors:

  1. The nature and degree of actual/potential harm that has resulted from the offence
  2. The offender’s culpability for the offence

Nature and degree of actual/potential harm resulting from the offence

The court will first look at the form and degree of harm that had resulted from the offence. There are 4 categories of harm:

HARM
Slight Slight or moderate property damage and/or slight physical injury characterised by no hospitalisation or medical leave;
Moderate Serious property damage and/or moderate personal injury characterised by hospitalisation or medical leave but no fractures or permanent injuries;
Serious Serious personal injury usually involving fractures, including injuries which are permanent in nature and/or which necessitate significant surgical procedures;
Very Serious Loss of limb, sight or hearing or life; or paralysis.

Culpability of the offender

The court will then assess the culpability of the offender, which consists of:

  • The extent of which the offender’s alcohol level exceeds the prescribed limit
  • The manner of the offender’s driving
CULPABILITY
Low Low alcohol level (35 – 54 microgrammes per 100ml of breath) and no evidence of dangerous driving behaviour
Medium Moderate to high alcohol level (55 – 69 microgrammes per 100ml of breath) or dangerous driving behaviour
High High alcohol level (>70 microgrammes per 100ml of breath) and dangerous driving behaviour

Case Study: Public Prosecutor (PP) vs Edwin s/o Suse Nathen

In PP vs Edwin s/o Suse Nathen, the accused was stopped by a traffic police officer during a spot check. The latter noticed that the accused smelled strongly of alcohol and administered a breathalyser test.

Further tests revealed that the proportion of alcohol in the accused’s breath was 64 microgrammes for every 100 millilitres of breath. This was 1.82 times the prescribed legal limit of 35 microgrammes of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of breath.

When sentencing the accused, the court held that:

  • The higher the alcohol level, the harsher the punishment. The weight of this offence was not in the lower end of the spectrum.
  • The accused made the deliberate decision to drive home despite having consumed alcohol, hence highlighting the need for deterrence.

The accused was sentenced to a fine of $2,500 and 21 months’ disqualification from driving after appeal.

Examples of Drink-Driving Mitigating Factors that are Invalid in Court Include:

  • “I had only drank a little”
  • “It was only a short distance”
  • “I did not cause any damage”

What are the Defences to Drink-Driving?

Under section 71A of the RTA, the accused will be not be guilty of drink-driving if he can prove that he had only consumed alcohol after he had stopped driving or stopped attempting to drive.

Another defence is to contest the results of the BEA (Breath Evidential Analyser), which is the second test an offender takes after failing the initial breathalyser test. The offender will have to prove through expert evidence that:

  • The inhalant or medication he took skewed the breathalyser’s results (Note that driving under the influence of medication can be an offence)
  • The BEA machine was poorly maintained, calibrated or malfunctioning.

Yet, an issue with this is that the trial might come months or even years after the arrest, and the machine might have been calibrated or repaired since.

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Drink-driving has real and serious consequences both on yourself and others. It is always best to err on the side of caution and deliberately plan beforehand to ensure you will not drink and drive.

For example, you can engage valet services such as iDrive or arrange alternate transport arrangements. It is also a criminal offence to be in charge of a vehicle while drunk under section 68 of the RTA, even if you are not driving it.

One wrong decision is all it takes. Don’t drink and drive.

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