Living in Spain

Drink Driving Regulations

  • Spain’s drink driving laws are stricter than the UK. In Spain the legal limit is 0.5mg of alcohol per ml of blood. In the UK, the limit is 0.8mg. Spanish rules also dictate that new drivers have to adhere to lower levels.
  • From the 9th May 2014, Spanish regulations state that a minimum fine of 1000€ will be payable by drivers caught whilst twice over the drink drive limit, and/or in all cases for re-offending drink drivers, and/or all drivers found under the influence of drugs.

2 Small Glasses of Wine or 3 Cañas ,  That’s Your Lot.

UK guidelines based on 80mg per litre of blood, are 4 units for men, 3 for women, to keep below that level.

Applying this to the Spanish limit of 50mg per litre of blood results in a limit of 2.5 units of alcohol for men, and just under 2 units for women.

For men this equates to 3 small glasses of wine, or 3 cañas.

For women even 2 glasses of wine or 2 cañas are pushing the limit based on those UK guidelines.

Slow and Steady.

Life in Spain often involves a slow and steady approach to drinking. Long leisurely lunches are the norm and so the question of how quickly the alcohol consumed leaves the system is often in question.

According to research by the UK government’s Transport and Road Research Laboratory, the rate at which alcohol is metabolised and removed from the bloodstream averages out at one unit per hour, starting one hour after the first drink is finished.

Working on this guidance you could consider that one more caña or small glass of wine per hour will keep you under the limit, however this advice comes with an important note of caution. The capacity of the body to metabolise alcohol is finite, and is limited to about 16-20 units per day. If you consistently drink around or above this level, you will probably never be below the limit.

Spanish Drink Drive Limits – The Facts

The legal maximum limits are:

  • A blood alcohol level of 0.5 grams per litre
  • (A breath alcohol level of 0.25 mg per litre)
  • For drivers holding a licence for less than two years
  • A blood alcohol level of 0.3 grams per litre
  • (A breath alcohol level of 0.15 mg per litre)
  • Drivers are obliged to submit to a breathalyser test at the request of a police officer in the following situations:
  • If the vehicle was involved in an accident
  • If the driver is suspected to be under the influence of alcohol or other substances
  • If the driver has broken a law, such as speeding
  • At a random control point (control de alcholemia) set up by the police.

The Spanish Points System

Spain applies a points system to driving licences. Spanish residents (including non-Spanish nationals who hold an NIE number) have an initial allocation of 12 points.

Points are deducted according to the severity of the offence. When no points remain, the licence is cancelled and the driver must complete an education process to have it reissued.

While EU driving licences are valid in Spain, the Spanish authorities cannot deduct points from a non-Spanish EU licence. For this reason, they may insist on a licence exchange in order to deduct points from a licence when the holder has committed an offence.

Drink Driving Penalties

Penalties for driving with a blood alcohol level of over 0.5 g/l (0.3 for new drivers) can include:

  • A fine of up to 600€
  • Deduction of six points from the driving licence
  • Suspension of driving licence for three months
  • Additionally a minimum fine of 1000€ applies if a driver is
  • more than double the drink drive limit
  • reoffending drink driver
  • refuses to take a breathalyser test
  • found driving while under the influence of drugs (at any quantity)

Serious Offences

The penalties for driving with a blood alcohol level of over 1.2 g/l can include:

  • A prison sentence of between three and six months or
  • A fine and between 31 and 91 days of community service
  • Suspension of driving licence for between one and four years


Police will confiscate the vehicle of a driver who has been found to be over the legal limit of alcohol, or under the influence of drugs.

An exception can be made if a passenger has a valid licence and is able to legally drive the vehicle.

If a vehicle is confiscated the driver is liable for the costs of towing and storage. All costs must be paid before the vehicle is released.

It is compulsory for non-residents to pay fines immediately, in cash.

If this is not possible, the vehicle will be confiscated regardless of whether an alternate driver is available.