A Guide To Drink Driving Offences For First Timers In Singapore

A Guide To Drink Driving Offences For First Timers In Singapore


Driving while under the influence of alcohol, when you exceed the legal limits, is a crime in Singapore and is punishable under Section 67 of the Road Traffic Act ("RTA"), which is reproduced below:-

Driving while under influence of drink or drugs

Section 67

(1) Any person who, when driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place —

(a) is unfit to drive in that he or she is under the influence of drink or of a drug or an intoxicating substance to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle; or

(b) has so much alcohol in his or her body that the proportion of it in his or her breath or blood exceeds the prescribed limit,

shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not less than $2,000 and not more than $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both and, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $20,000 and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.

The Law on Drink Driving in Singapore

Penalties for drink driving have increased significantly following the reforms to the RTA in 2019, which was aimed at providing further deterrence against irresponsible driving and to tighten the regulations with respect to irresponsible driving.

Following these amendments, the relevant sentencing framework for first-time drink-driving offenders can be found in paragraph 33 of Rafael Voltaire Alzate v Public Prosecutor [2021] SGHC 224.

Level of alcohol (μg per 100ml of breath) Range of fines Range of disqualification
36–54 $2,000–$4,000 24–30 months
55–69 $4,000–$6,000 30–36 months
70–89 $6,000–$8,000 36–48 months
≥ 90 $8,000–$10,000 48–60 months (or longer)

However, it should be noted that this framework only provides a starting point and does not take into consideration the situation where there has been harm to a person or damage to property. In such situations, further adjustments will be needed to determine the appropriate type or length of sentence to impose.

Generally, it was noted in Stansilas Fabian Kester v Public Prosecutor [2017] 5 SLR 755 that it would be relevant to consider the degree of harm caused in such situations as well as the culpability of the offender.

These are some of the factors the Court takes into consideration when making an assessment.

slight – slight or moderate property damage and/or slight physical injury characterised by no hospitalisation or medical leave; low – low alcohol level and no evidence of dangerous driving behaviour;
2. moderate – serious property damage and/or moderate personal injury characterised by hospitalisation or medical leave but no fractures or permanent injuries; 2. medium – moderate to high alcohol level or dangerous driving behaviour; and
3. serious – serious personal injury usually involving fractures, including injuries which are permanent in nature and/or which necessitate significant surgical procedures; and 3. high – high alcohol level and dangerous driving behaviour.
4. very serious – loss of limb, sight or hearing or life; or paralysis.

Subsequently, the Court will then determine an appropriate sentence after considering any relevant mitigating or aggravating factors.

The “Serious Offender” Penalty

The reforms to the RTA in 2019 also implemented the “Serious Offender” penalty in the event you are also convicted of either reckless or dangerous driving (Section 64) or driving without due care or reasonable consideration (Section 65) based on the same set of circumstances as your drink driving conviction.

Generally, a “serious offender” under Section 64(8) of the RTA is someone who is convicted of driving or attempting to drive a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs or who without reasonable excuse, fails to provide a specimen of his/her breath for a breath test.

Reckless Or Dangerous Driving Offences

For dangerous driving offences under Section 64 of the RTA, the framework in Wu Zhi Yong [2022] 4 SLR 587 (“Wu Zhi Yong”) applies.

In Wu Zhi Yong, the sentencing bands are as follows:-

Band 1 A fine between $2,000 and $15,000 and/or up to one month’s imprisonment and a DQ period of 2 to 3 years.
Band 2 Between one month’s and one year’s imprisonment and a DQ period of 3 to 4 years.
Band 3 Between one year’s and two year’s imprisonment and a DQ period of 4 to 5 years.

The two steps of inquiry involved are:-

  • Offence-specific factors; and
  • Offender-specific factors.

Offence-Specific Factors

Serious potential harm and danger including the condition of the road, the volume of traffic or number of pedestrians actually on or which might reasonably be expected to be on the road at the relevant time, the speed and manner of driving, visibility at the relevant time, the type of vehicle, and any particular vulnerabilities.
Serious property damage where as a general rule, the amount of any loss or damage could serve as a proxy indicator of harm.
High alcohol level found in the accused person’s blood or breath. A high level of alcohol that substantially exceeded the prescribed limit would be an aggravating factor.
An offender’s reason or motivation for driving which could potentially be either a mitigating or aggravating factor. The gravity of an offender’s conduct would be increased if he had, at that time, been driving a passenger for hire or reward.
Increased culpability including where the accused engage in a particularly dangerous manner of driving. For an offence under s 65(1) Road Traffic Act, an example of such an aggravating factor would be a high degree of carelessness in the manner of driving.
The offender’s conduct following the offence or attempt to evade arrest in that conduct that was “belligerent or violent” upon arrest would constitute an aggravating factor. Likewise, the failure to stop in an attempt to evade arrest or to avoid apprehension should also weigh against an offender.

Offender-specific Factors

After placing the offender into one of the relevant sentencing bands, the court will then calibrate the sentence after considering the offender-specific offences. Some examples are set out below.

Aggravating factors (+) Mitigating factors (-)
Offences taken into consideration for the purposes of sentencing Evidence of genuine remorse
The presence of relevant antecedents (apart from where the offender’s antecedents have been taken into account under the “repeat offender” or “serious repeat offender” provisions) Offender’s youth
Evidence showing a lack of remorse

Driving Without Due Care Or Reasonable Consideration Offences

While the framework in Wu Zhi Yong is promulgated for reckless or dangerous driving offences under Section 64 RTA, it can provide useful guidance for offences for driving without due care or reasonable consideration offences under Section 65 RTA as well.

Are There Defences To Drink Driving Offences?

If the accused can prove that he/she had only consumed alcohol after he/she had ceased to drive, attempt to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or any other public place, this can be a valid defence under Section 71A of the RTA.

Another defence is to contest the results of the Breath Evidential Analyser, which is the subsequent test the accused takes after failing the initial breathalyser test.

This is generally a difficult defence to run and the accused will have to prove through expert evidence that:

  • The inhalant or medication he took skewed the breathalyser’s results.
  • The BEA machine was poorly maintained, calibrated or malfunctioning.


If you require assistance with matters under the Road Traffic Act, we can assist. Just get in touch with us through our contact form below and we will follow up with you regarding your matter.

Alternatively, you may wish to get in touch by contacting us at: 6550 6359

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Filed under: Criminal Defence
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