In the recent months the United Arab Emirates have brought about many sweeping changes to certain archaic laws, including those concerning the consumption of alcohol in the UAE. With the latest changes, alcohol consumption is no longer subject to strict licensing requirements. However, that does not mean that people can abandon all caution and can act in any manner they please. It is crucial to understand that even with the new changes being affected, the UAE has many strict and rigorous laws in place especially when it comes to public safety.

With the recent changes’ alcohol consumption is legal, if a person is twenty-one years old and above. Further alcohol consumption should be either in a private place or in a licensed public place. Selling of alcohol to minors is punishable and similarly drunken driving is rigorously punished in the UAE.

Driving under the influence:

Pursuant to the Federal Law number 21 of 1995 concerning ‘traffic’ and its amendments, driving in UAE under the influence of alcohol or any other anesthetic or narcotic substances is punishable by the law. The traffic regulations in the UAE are extremely strict in order to ensure protection of road users and to reduce traffic casualties. The traffic laws are regularly amended to bring in innovative changes as the UAE aims to achieve its aim of reducing traffic causalities from every 6 per 100,000 people to every 3 per 100,000 people by 2021.

Punishment for drunk driving:

Pursuant to Article 49 (6) of the traffic law, as amended by Federal law no. 12 of 2007 :

Whoever commits any one of the following acts ‘Driving or attempting to driving a vehicle on the road while under the effect of alcoholic drinks or anesthetic substances and the like, shall be sentenced to imprisonment and / or to a minimum fine of Twenty- Five Thousand Dirhams.

Further, pursuant to Article 59 of the traffic law, ‘A policeman may arrest any vehicle driver if found involved in the commitment of one of the following crimes:

 1)Causing the death of another person owing to the driving of a vehicle, or causing harm to him.

2) Driving a vehicle in a reckless or dangerous way.

3)Driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any other narcotic or the like, thus depriving him of his power of control over it.

4)Refusal to give his name or address or giving a false name or address at the time of occurrence of one of the crimes mentioned in this Article.

5)Attempt to flee in case an accident harming any person occurs or in case of an order to stop given by a policeman.

Additional penalties can also be imposed by the court including but not limited to:

Suspending the driving license for a specified period of time which could be anything from three months to even extending up to two years in time and even prohibit the driver to renew the driving license. If no valid driver’s license is existing at the time of the offence then the additional penalties can be even higher.

It is critical to understand the important distinction that despite the changes in law that legalizes alcohol consumption in some ways in the UAE, , it is still strictly prohibited for the driver of any vehicle to drive while under the influence of an alcoholic or narcotic substance or the like regardless of whether the consumption of an alcoholic or narcotic substance is legal or not. Drivers caught under the influence can be immediately arrested with their driver’s license confiscated. It is thereby prudent to say that there exists absolute zero tolerance for drunken driving in the UAE and the law clearly demarcates even attempting to drive in a drunken or intoxicated state as an offence inviting strict penalties. The strict measures undertaken by the UAE authorizes showcases their commitment and emphasis on the protection of life and safety of people. These laws are not to be trifled with and it should be complied with in letter and spirit as zero tolerance of alcohol or narcotic substance is a practiced norm in the UAE.