By Aisling Carr, Solicitor, Litigation Unit
The Road Traffic Act 2010 which came into force on various dates in 2010 and 2011 has introduced significant changes to the law in relation to intoxicant offences in Ireland. Not only have the various limits been reduced but a new class of driver known as a “specified person” has also been created. The most radical change of all, however, is the provision for the disposal of certain intoxicant offences by fixed penalty notice which was unheard of to date. Prior to the introduction of the 2010 Act, disqualification was mandatory in the event of a conviction for drunken driving.
The previous limit was 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. If a person exceeded this limit they became liable to minimum disqualification periods of one year to six years (depending on the concentration of alcohol recorded by the intoxilyser machine and whether or not it was a first time offence).
In addition the maximum fine for intoxicant offences which could be imposed upon conviction was €5,000.
New Limits under the Road Traffic Act 2010
Sections 4 and 5 of the Road Traffic Act 2010 which provide for the offences of drink driving and being drunk in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle, have introduced a reduction to the blood, urine and breath alcohol levels previously permitted.
The new permitted limits for non specified persons are as follows:
• Not exceeding 50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood (a reduction of 30 milligrammes compared to previously permitted concentration of alcohol)
• Not exceeding 67 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine ( a reduction of 40 milligrammes)
• Not exceeding 22 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath ( a reduction of 13 microgrammes).
Two new lower limit categories for non specified drivers have been introduced and if a person falls within the first of these two categories they can escape a period of disqualification from driving by paying a fixed fine.
Fines which can be imposed on non-specified drivers upon conviction range from €200 to €5,000. Possible imprisonment can result for non-payment of fines and for more serious offences imprisonment not exceeding six months can be imposed. Periods of disqualification for first offences range from none up to three years and for second offences disqualification ranges from one to six years. Three penalty points will be added to the driver’s licence.
What is a Specified Person?
The 2010 Act introduces a new category of driver who is subject to a lower limit category. A specified person is defined in Section 3 of the Act as any of following:
• the holder of a learner permit;
• the holder of a new driving licence gained within the last two years;
• the holder of a driving licence licensing the holder to drive a vehicle in certain categories;
• the holder of a licence to drive certain small public service vehicles, such as taxi’s, in certain circumstances;
• does not hold a licence for the correct category of vehicle, or did not hold such licence within a certain time period around the offence;
• in certain circumstances when a breathalyser indicates alcohol in the breath and the holder cannot produce a licence to the An Garda Síochána.
The same penalties and disqualification periods apply to a specified person as a non-specified. However in addition they are subject to lower concentration of alcohol levels which when breached will attract payment of a fine of €200, no term of imprisonment and a three month disqualification period if the fixed fine is paid. If not then a summons will issue for court and upon conviction a disqualification period of six months applies. For a second offence the period of disqualification which can be imposed is one year.
Further information can be obtained from Aisling Carr, Solicitor, by emailing [email protected]
Lower alcohol limits generally
Even lower alcohol limits for specified drivers
Disqualification no longer mandatory in certain circumstances