Drinking & Driving in Spain

A couple of decades ago, drinking and driving in Spain was commonplace. Today it is not.

As in many countries, this reflects a change in the public perception of what is acceptable conduct but in Spain it also reflects much more police activity and substantial penalties - including disqualification from driving - for those arrested and convicted.

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This guide covers…

This guide is only about driving having consumed alcohol.

We do not deal with incapacity through other causes such as drugs. Many of the same rules will apply, but not all.

It describes, in particular, the consequences of drinking and driving in the area of Andalusia/Andalucía – which contains the Costa del Sol. See a map here. Please note that certain aspects of the law in Spain vary from one “autonomous community” (comunidad autónomalightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject to another.

See also our Guide to Driving in Spain.

Introduction

Like most countries in the world, Spain limits your right to drive once you have consumed alcohol.

This is taken quite seriously, and you will find a high number of police control units, especially on Saturday nights and holiday seasons – particularly at Christmas, but also in the Summer!

Video guide about driving over the limit in Spain

You can get a quick overview of drinking and driving in Spain by watching this video interview (below) with Spanish lawyer Miguel Manzanares.

Do the drink-driving rules in Spain apply to foreigners?

Yes.

For foreigners that do not have a permanent address in Spain, the authorities may decide to take the vehicle away and keep it in a local store until any fine is paid.

What are the drinking and driving rules in Spain?

In Spain it is illegal to drive or attempt to drive whilst you are incapable of doing so safely. This could be for any reason – illness, drugs, because you’ve had too much sun or because you have been drinking.

The maximum penalty for breaking this law is a fine of €1,000 plus the loss of your driving licence for up to four years.

In addition to this general prohibition, there are specific rules relating to drink driving.

The police have the power to stop anyone driving a motor vehicle, anyone they suspect is about to drive a motor vehicle, or anyone who is in charge of a motor vehicle and demand that they undertake a breath test. They do not need to have any specific reason or justification for doing this. The interference with your civil rights is specifically acknowledged and accepted by Spanish law in the interests of public safety by Spanish law.

If you refuse to take a breath test you can be arrested and locked up until you can be brought before a court or until the police have established your identity, satisfied themselves that you are fit to drive and decide to release you pending a later court appearance.

 Type of driver  Alcohol in  breath Fine Points deducted  Alcohol in  blood Fine Points deducted
Drivers in general 0.25mg/litre Up to €500 Up to four points 0.5g/litre Up to €1,000 Up to six points
Professionals (commercial) 0.15mg/litre Up to €500 Up to four points 0.3g/litre Up to €1,000 Up to six points
New drivers (first two years) 0.15mg/litre Up to €500 Up to four points 0.5g/litre Up to €1,000 Up to six points

If you drive when you have consumed more alcohol than the law allows, you may be treated in one of two different ways:

Administrative offences for drink-driving in Spain

If you drive with a blood alcohol higher than 0.5g per litre of blood but lower than 1g per litre, your offence will be considered an administrative offence and you will be fined and you will lose four points on your driving licence. Lower limits apply in the case of commercial vehicles and drivers who have held a licence for less than two years.

In Spain, they operate a points system – each driver is ‘issued’ with 12 points. If they commit driving offences, various points are deducted from their licence. Once no points remain, the licence is automatically cancelled and the driver must then reapply for a licence and go through a driver education process before it can be reissued.

These points, in effect, only apply to holders of Spanish driving licences as there is no mechanism for any points to be allocated to a foreign driving licence.

Criminal offences for drink-driving in Spain

If your blood alcohol limit is above this level the offence will be treated as a criminal offence. You will be subject to a prison sentence from six to twelve months and the loss of six points off your licence. You may also, irrespective of how many points you have lost from your licence, have your licence withdrawn for between one and four years.

Driving with a blood alcohol level of less than this amount can also be treated as a criminal offence (with the same penalties) if there are other aggravating factors such as dangerous driving.

If you refuse to take a breath or blood test, you can be sentenced to a period of imprisonment of between six and twelve months and lose your licence for a period of between one and four years.

What are the consequences of drink-driving in Spain?

Once you are arrested, you will be taken to the local police station. They will take your declaration (statement) there and release you, but they will retain your vehicle unless one of your (sober) companions can take it away for you.

When they release you, they will give you a court appointment.

When brought before the court, if you admit your guilt or you are convicted, the minimum penalty for a first offence is a fine of €500 and a disqualification from driving for three months.

If you are convicted a second or subsequent time, the fine would be €1,000.

Who can help if I’m arrested for drink-driving in Spain?

If you are arrested for any offences to do with drinking and driving you will need the services of a local lawyer and, if you do not speak fluent Spanish, an interpreter will also be required.

If your own lawyer cannot assist you at that moment, you are entitled to a legal aid lawyer that the police will call for you.

A legal aid lawyer is usually available almost immediately but, depending on the language you need, the interpreter may take longer, and you cannot leave jail until you have made your statement (for which the interpreter is required) before the police.

Afterwards, you will be given a court appointment to finalise the process.

Conclusion

Spain is very tough on drinking and driving. Although the acceptable drink-drive level is similar to many other European countries, there is far more police activity and the penalties for breaking the law are far tougher than in some places.

Don’t do it. Taking a taxi instead will save you money and headaches.

You may also want to read:

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Drink Driving Limits across Europe – From the European Transport Safety Council

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