Drink driving penalties

There are strict drink driving penalties if you are detected over the limit, deemed to be unfit to drive (even though under the limit) or if you refuse to give a sample. You could be imprisoned, banned from driving and face a fine if you're found guilty of drink driving.

Penalties

The following penalties may apply if you are charged and found guilty of a drink driving offence in Northern Ireland.

The actual penalty that you get depends on the circumstances and facts of your case which will all be taken into account by the District Judge who hears your case, in reaching his/her decision.

Causing death or grievous bodily injury by careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs

You could get:

  • 14 years’ imprisonment
  • an unlimited fine
  • a ban from driving for at least two years
  • an extended driving test before your licence is returned

Driving or attempting to drive when above the legal limit or unfit through drink or drugs

You could get:

  • six months’ imprisonment
  • a fine of up to £5,000
  • a ban from driving for at least 12 months or three years if convicted twice in 10 years
  • a driving test before your licence is returned

Refusing to provide a specimen of breath, blood or urine for analysis

You may get:

  • six months’ imprisonment
  • up to £5,000 fine
  • a ban from driving for at least 12 months
  • a driving test before your licence is returned

Being in charge of a vehicle when over the legal limit or unfit through drink/drugs

You could get:

  • three months imprisonment
  • a fine of up to £2,500
  • a possible ban from driving for a period decided by the District Judge

The High Risk Offenders scheme

Your driving licence won’t be returned automatically at the end of a driving ban if you’re a ‘high risk offender’. You’ll only get your licence back if you pass a medical examination. As well as paying a higher fee to renew your driving licence, you may also have to attend and pay for a medical examination.

You’re a high risk offender if you:

  • were convicted of two drink-driving offences within 10 years
  • were driving when you were at two and a half times or more the legal alcohol limit
  • 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 (for example, if it was taken when you were unconscious)

For more information on the High Risk Offenders Scheme, see the driving disqualifications page:

The courts may offer you a course for drink drive offenders if you’re banned from driving for 12 or more months.

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