Sanctions that you can expect in case of Drunk Driving (incl. revoking of foreign driving licence)
Drunk driving is also called driving while impaired/driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under influence.
Drunk driving (DUI) is a common crime in Hungary since Hungarian Criminal Law uses the „zero tolerance” approach.
Although it is one of the mild offenses (compared to other criminal offenses prescribed by Criminal Law) its sanctions and other consequences may be very unpleasant:
- Withdrawal of driving license,
- driving disqualification and
- obligation of retraining (rehabilitation) .
Let’s have a look at these institutions.
Criminal offense of infraction?
Anyone who has consumed alcohol and subsequently drove a motor vehicle commits driving under influence. If the blood alcohol concentration does not reach 0.50 grams / liter of blood (which is equal to 0.25 milligrams / liter of breath), then the act does not qualify as a crime offense but an infraction.
Levels of intoxication
The severity of drunk driving in Hungary depends on the levels of intoxication.
- If the blood alcohol level is below 0.3 per thousand, the fact of alcohol consumption cannot be established!
- Alcohol consumption can be established in case of blood alcohol level between 0.31 and 0.5 per thousand, but it is not considered an alcohol-affected state. This qualifies as an infraction.
- Between 0.51 and 0.8 per thousand blood alcohol levels, the alcoholic influence is „very mild”
- Alcoholic influence is „mild” between 0.81 and 1.5 per thousand,
- Alcoholic influence is „moderate” between 1.51 and 2.5 per thousand,
- Alcoholic influence is „severe” Between 2.51 and 3.5 parts per thousand,
- Alcoholic influence is very severe from 3.51 per thousand.
Punishments of drunk driving
Punishment for drunk driving is the question that is most often asked of a lawyer who specializes in drunk driving. The punishment varies widely and is highly dependent on mitigating and aggravating circumstances. One of the attorney’s responsibilities is to explore and emphasize mitigating circumstances in court proceedings. Perhaps I will not reveal a secret by saying that the most important sentencing factor is the level of intoxication I have described above. But of course there are many other important aspects too. So let’s have a look at the ranges of penalty.
Drunk driving in the Hungarian Criminal Code
Drunk driving is punishable by up to two years of imprisonment if the driver does not cause injury. That’s not to say they usually go to jail for drunk driving. If convicted of drunk driving – and not a recidivist or repeat offender – you are most likely to expect a fine (or – in rare cases – a community service penalty). In the case of recidivism, the sentence may be suspended prison sentence. In the case of multiple recidivism the criminal sentence may be even executable prison punishment.
Qualified cases of drunk driving
A much more severe punishment can be expected for anyone who causes an injury or an even more serious consequence (such as a fatal accident) while driving under influence. I strongly advise you to consult a lawyer in such a cases.
Disqualification from driving
Driving disqualification is the punishment that annoys the perpetrators of drunk driving the most. The ban can range from 1 month to 10 years. Prohibition from driving is a mandatory rule in the Criminal Code in most cases. However, it is possible to waive the disqualification if we can prove that the case deserves special consideration.
Disqualifications from driving generally apply to all categories of vehicle (motorcycles, cars, vans etc.) But in exceptional cases the court may disqualify the offender only for one of these categories of vehicle.
Rehabilitation course (retraining) for drunk drivers.
As a general rule all the offenses of drunk driving result must take a retraining or rehabilitation course which is time consuming and costs a lot of money.
Offenders are quit of the obligation of retraining only in cases of infractions (ie. not criminal offenses) and if in case the range of disqualification is under 6 months
The other case when the offender is not obliged to do the retraining course is if he is disqualified for one category of mother vehicle (motorcycle, car, van etc.). It is therefore the duty of the lawyer to do everything he can to restrict the ban accordingly.
Foreign driving licence
The Hungarian Traffic Authority makes a written decision about revoking the foreign driving licence in case the driving license could not be confiscated by the police on the spot. The foreign driving licence shall be returned to the driver only after proving that he had completed the retraining course. Retraining course is not compulsory in case the court decides to revoke the driving license ony for certain categoriy (motorcycle, car, van etc.) This is rule prevails in case of foreign driving licenses too. But the foreign driving license shall be returned to the driver in case he declares to leave Hungary for good. In this case the driver shall not be entitled to drive within the territory of Hungary (except until the border crossing point). But this rule prevails only for 100 % foreign cizitens.
Read my introduction in English
You can read many of my articles on Hungarian Criminal law
Find out the different approaches of drunk driving in different legal systems: a good Wikipedia article