Caught Drunken Driving? All you need to know


Alcoholic beverages have been increasingly used in the societies which are creating positive and negative; short-term long term, social, medical, and cultural impact. Like other western countries, the laws in India also make driving and drinking a punishable offence. The only exception can be having BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) within the permissible limit.

It is a well-known fact of the number of road accidents which occur everywhere due to reasons like drunkenness, driver’s fault, rash, and negligent driving, etc. In the case of The State of Tamil Nadu v K. Balu and Anr[1], the judgment highlighted the number of road accidents due to the influence of alcohol/drugs is 16, 298 for the year 2015, i.e., 3.3 per cent of the total number of road accidents for the year.

Unquestionably, the statistics documented under the category of drunk driving is under-reported so as not to tamper the right of the victim to receive compensation. So, the figure recorded, and the figure on record has a significant difference.[2]

Permissible limit

It is pertinent to know what amounts to drunken driving and what is the permissible limit. The BAC permissible in India is 0.03%, i.e., 30 mg per 100 ml of blood. The BAC permissible varies from country to country. For example, in countries like Pakistan Alcohol is completely banned, China has BAC as 0.02%, and the UK and Canada have permissible BAS as 0.08%

In the case of Alister Anthony Pareira v State of Maharashtra[3], the accused was charged with causing the death of seven people and injuries to eight people who were asleep on the footpath of Carter Road, Bandra (West).  Upon Medical examination of the accused, the content of alcohol was 0.1125 w/v of Ethyl Alcohol. The High Court convicted the accused of Maharashtra, the basis of a conviction being his drunken state. But nobody cross-examined that drunken state which was stoutly argued upon on behalf of the accused at the stage of appeal. But the High Court ultimately dismissed the appeal because the BAC was higher than permissible, and no examination or cross-examination can render the fact void.

All the cases of Drunk Driving are registered under Driving under Influence (DUI) cases. On the eve of the new year 2019, Hyderabad itself registered as high as 2499 cases of DUI during checking on the occasion, and 873 cases were recorded by the Pune Police Stations, Mumbai 455 cases and Delhi 509 cases.[4]

Read Also – A Victim’s Guide To Handling Cab Accidents

How to identify intoxication

The case of Bachubhai Hassanalli Karyani v State of Maharashtra[5] is an important highlight because it places reliance on medical evidence and not on mere physical examination. The accused charged with rash and negligent driving under the state of alcohol. His state of alcohol contended only based on the opinion of the Doctor who conducted the examination. His breath was smelling of alcohol, gait unsteady incoherent speech, and dilated pupils. The accused was not subjected to the urine test. The blood samples were collected, but its report was never produced before the prosecution. The notion of accused being in a drunken state was denied by the court to meet the ends of justice. Thus the intoxication should be identified through breath analyzer, blood test, and urine test.

Is breath analyzer the only way to prove that a person is drunk?

As per Section 185 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988, which indicates a permissible limit BAC of 30 mg%, “in a test by a breath analyzer.” The wording of the section is clear the necessity of the test by breath analyzer. The police officer may also take the person to a nearby place to conduct breath and blood tests.

In the case of State Tr.P.S Lodhi Colony, New Delhi v Sanjeev Nanda[6], where the accused was held guilty under Section 85 of Indian penal Code and Section 185(1) of the M.V Act, 1988 to show intoxication. It was contended on behalf of the Accused that since breath analyzer test is the test statutorily recognized for drunken driving, which was not conducted for the Accused, no reliance can be placed on the state of intoxication of the accused.

Punishment and fine: Section 185 and 188 of the MV Act

If the BAC is 30 mg per 100 ml of Blood, then does not amount to any offense. If BAC is within 30mg-60mg per 100 ml of blood, it shall attract imprisonment up to 6 months or fine up to Rs. 2000 or both.

If BAC is ranging from 60mg-150mg per 100 ml of Blood, imprisonment for 1 year or fine of Rs. 4000 or both can be imposed. Repeating of offence within a period of three years will be punishable with imprisonment, which can extend up to 3 years and/or fine Rs. 8000.

If the BAC is above 150 mg per 100 ml of blood, then it attracts imprisonment of 2 years and/or fine of Rs. 5000. Repeating this offence will attract a penalty of Rs. 10000, cancellation of license and jail term.

Way Forward

The State and centre have been working progressively towards reducing the number of causalities caused due to drunkenness. The polices implemented by the union government of ban of Alcohol within 500 meters of the National Highways, is a measure to curtail down the number of road accidents.

In action taken by Hyderabad in 2016, where it is required by the bar authorities to make sure a pool of cabs is available near the bar to take home drunken people. This action was initiated after Kolkata took stern action when a fatal accident of an actress was reported.[7]

As per the recommendation of the World Health organization, all member governments should reduce the per capita consumption, which can be done by reducing the availability of such alcoholic beverages. This action can be taken in lieu of Article 47 of the Constitution of India.[8]

What is the permissible Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit for driving in India, and what are the legal consequences for exceeding this limit?

Featured Snippet: The permissible Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit for driving in India is 0.03%, equivalent to 30 mg per 100 ml of blood. Exceeding this limit can result in imprisonment, fines, and license cancellation. Penalties vary based on the degree of intoxication, with strict enforcement under Section 185 and 188 of the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988.


A zero-tolerance policy must be devised and enforced for the proper clarification of the intent of the parliament. Identifying the places most vulnerable and setting up proper checkpoints have help to reduce the number of accidents, but the problem is yet to be solved from its very roots. The permissible limit remains 0.03% and should be abided by not to get caught by the police.

[1] Civil appeal Nos .12164-12166 of 2016

[2] R.N. Mathur v State (Finance Department)

[3] Criminal Appeal Nos. 1318-20 of 2007

[5] Criminal Appeal No. 183 of 1970

[6] S.L.P. (Crl.) No.3292 of 2010

[8] https://www.alcoholwebindia.in/content/regulation-legislation

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