Which criminal and administrative measures for driving under the influence are available?


Driving under the influence of alcohol is a traffic crime. Drivers who are apprehended for driving under the influence, are often sanctioned by one or more of the following measures: a fine, driving disqualification, an educational measure, and an examination of fitness to drive. In more serious cases - involving an extremely high BAC level, recidivism, or an at-fault crash – community service, a prison sentence and licence revocation are also considered. Table 3 presents an overview of sanctions for experienced and novice drivers at different BAC levels.

In the Netherlands, a driver who is apprehended for drink driving often faces two procedures, each with its own measures: a criminal procedure in which a penalty is imposed by law (by the Public Prosecution Service (OM) or in court) and an administrative procedure in which the offender may face a ‘notification order’ (previously known as a requisition order) of CBR, the organisation responsible for driving licences in the Netherlands [29]. The main purpose of the criminal procedure is to punish the offender. The purpose of the notification order is to determine if a driver is still sufficiently capable or skilled to perform the driving task, and whether an additional measure can prevent him from committing another alcohol offence. The notification order therefore focuses more on prevention and future behaviour.

Criminal procedure

In the criminal procedure, offenders with a blood alcohol content (BAC) up to and including 1.65‰ are punished by the Public Prosecution Service (OM). At a first offense the OM often issues a penalty order (fine), supplemented by suspension of the driving licence for a fixed term. The amount of the fine and the duration of the suspension increase as the BAC category gets higher. At a BAC of 1.66‰ or higher, in an injury crash, or in case of multiple recidivism, the alcohol offender is brought to court. Irrespective of whether the OM or the judge impose a penalty, the alcohol offender’s ‘file’ (formerly a criminal record) is entered into the Judicial Documentation System (JDS).

In accordance with the Regulation Recidivism Alcohol and Drugs, the driving licence is automatically revoked if a second drink-driving offence is committed within five years after the first conviction or penal order has become irrevocable, and if the offender’s BAC is higher than 1,3‰ [30]. In case of a revocation, the driver will, once more, have to pass the theoretical knowledge and practice tests to obtain a driving licence.

Administrative procedure 

In the administrative procedure, the alcohol offender faces the measures that can be issued by CBR: an educational measure (Light Educational Measure Alcohol – LEMA, an Educational Measure Alcohol – EMA), an examination of fitness to drive, or – until 2015 – an alcolock. See the questions How effective are educational measures (EMA and LEMA) in the prevention of driving under the influence?; How effective is an alcolock in the prevention of driving under the influence? en What other measures can be taken?. The outcome of the examination of fitness to drive (or a more specific examination of alcohol use) may be that the driver does not meet the requirements for driving skills or fitness to drive. In that case, the driving licence will be revoked. The difference with a suspension of the driving licence is that after revocation of the licence the driver must once more prove his skills and/or fitness to drive at CBR. In the administrative procedure, the height of the BAC, the number of years of holding a driving licence (novice driver or experienced driver), and whether or not the driver is a multiple offender, also determine the type of sanction.

The CBR examination of a driver’s alcohol use primarily intends to ascertain whether the offender’s alcohol use can be diagnosed as problematic, and consists of a psychiatric and physical examination, and a blood test [31]. If the outcome is that the offender is ‘fit’, an EMA is imposed; if the outcome is that the offender is ‘unfit’, the driver’s licence is revoked, for the duration of the driver at least having been demonstrably free of alcohol abuse or addiction for one year. Comparing participants in this examination to similar offenders who did not partake, shows that participation results in a statistically significant reduction of the chance of reoffending (from 11% to 7%). This effect has been shown for both the subgroup obliged to accept an EMA (examination declared them ‘fit’) and for the subgroup whose driving licence was revoked [31].


Table 3. Sanctions for experienced and novice drivers of motor vehicles in the Netherlands. The sanctions are for first offenders; higher penalties apply for multiple offenders (Sources: Staatscourant and Trimbos instituut [32]).

Part of fact sheet

Driving under the influence of alcohol

 During the most recent measurements, in 2022, 2.6% of the Dutch drivers were under the influence of alcohol during weekend nights, which amounts to Meer

Would you like to cite this fact sheet?