How many drinks does it take to fail a breathalyser test in Spain?

The Local Spain
The Local Spain - [email protected]
How many drinks does it take to fail a breathalyser test in Spain?
If you refuse to take a breathalyser test, you could be sentenced to between six and 12 months in jail and have your licence taken away for between one and four years. (Photo by GAIZKA IROZ / AFP)

If you're driving, it's always better to not drink alcohol beforehand. But if you are going to, here's how many beers, glasses of wine and other alcoholic beverages it takes to fail a breathalyser test in Spain.


We all know that if you're driving, it's better not to drink anything at all. Fortunately in a country like Spain 'designated drivers' have a whole array of alcohol-free beers (known as cervezas sin alcohol or simply 'una sin') to choose from.

READ ALSO: What are the drink driving limits and penalties in Spain?

Alcohol is, like in many countries, one of the main causes of road accidents and deaths in Spain. In fact, it is found in between 30 and 50 percent of fatal accidents, according to the Directorate-General for Traffic (DGT).

As the amount of alcohol in the body increases, so does the risk of an accident. With a blood alcohol level of 0.5 grammes of ethanol per litre of blood, the risk of a crash is doubled, and with 0.8 g/l, the risk is five times greater, the DGT states. 

The risk is even higher in young drivers or those who have less driving experience.


Knowing your limits

Technically speaking, you can drink alcohol and still legally be allowed drive and could even pass a breathalyser test.

But exactly how much depends on a few different factors, such as whether you're a man or woman, how much you weigh, and what you're drinking.

In general terms and as stated in Spain's Traffic Code, a breathalyser test is failed (or considered 'positive') when your blood alcohol level exceeds 0.5 grammes per litre (0.25 mg/L in exhaled air).

As mentioned above, for younger drivers with less than two years on their driving licence, as well as for people who drive as part of their jobs, the limits are lower: blood alcohol levels may not exceed 0.3 g/L of alcohol in blood (0.15 mg/L in air).

You can read more about breathalyser tests in Spain on the DTG website here.

How many drinks is that?

But how does that translate into drinks, you might be wondering?

1.5 units is generally considered enough to fail a breathalyser test for men, whereas for women it is 1 unit.

This useful graphic by the Royal Automobile Club of Spain ( shows how many drinks it takes for several different types of alcohol to stay within, toe the line, and pass the legal limit for the blood-alcohol level for the most common drinks (tasa de alcoholemia de bebidas más habituales).

We've broken it down by sex and weight below, estimating the effect of certain quantities of alcohol and what your expected blood alcohol content would be.

Remember the legal limit is 0.5 milligrammes per litre of blood, and please note these are estimates and blood alcohol levels can vary on a number of other factors including whether or not you've eaten or drank on an empty stomach, if you weigh less than the examples given or even what time of day it is.



All beers are assumed to be 330ml (often referred to as a 'tercio' in Spain) in this example.

Men (70-90kg)

One beer = it's pretty likely you can enjoy one 33cl beer and then safely (and legally) drive.

Two beers = that tempting second beer is the one that will put you close to, or even over, the legal limit.

Three beers = A third beer would put you well over the legal limit, ranging anywhere 0.64 to 0.83 mg/L.

Women (70-90kg)

One beer = Enough to put some women close to the legal limit.

Two beers = Well over the limit, perhaps even double the legal 0.5 limit for some women.

Three beers = With a blood-alcohol level of roughly 1.02-1.43, three beers could put some women at double or even triple the legal limit.



Men (70-90kg)

One glass = You can safely enjoy one glass of wine without worrying about the legal limit.

Two glasses = Even two 100ml glasses of wine should be legal, with blood-alcohol levels ranging from 0.31 - 0.40.

Three glasses = That third glass, however, puts you at least very close to the legal limit and likely over it.

Women (70kg-90kg)

One glass = A single 100ml glass of wine or cava puts most women in the 0.25 - 0.35 blood-alcohol level.

Two glasses = Drinking that second glass, however, will almost certainly put you over.

Three glasses = Three glasses would put some women at twice the legal limit, with estimates ranges being 0.75-1.04mg/L.


If you're drinking a mixed drink (combinado), say a 50ml whisky and coke or gin and tonic, the estimated blood-alcohol levels are:

Men (70-90kg)

One drink = Puts most men in the 0.25 - 0.32 range, so legal.

Two drinks = A second drink, however, puts you on the edge, ranging from 0.44 to 0.57, which would mean you'd fail a breathalyser.

Three drinks = A third mixed drink could put some men at double the legal limit.

Women (70kg-90kg)

One drink = As you can see from the graphic, one single mixed drink may put some women over the legal limit.

Two drinks = Two mixed drinks puts you significantly over, perhaps twice the legal limit.

Three drinks = A third would put you drastically over the limit, with estimated blood-alcohol limits ranging from 1.18mg/L to 1.65mg/L, which is over three times the legal limit.

Punishments and fines

If your alcohol level is between 0.25mg/l and 0.50mg/l you will be fined €500, plus have four points taken off your licence.

If it’s between 0.50mg/l and 60mg/l, you will be penalised by having to pay €1,000, plus have six points taken off your licence.

If you are found to be over 60mg/l, according to article 379 of the penal code, you could face between three and six months in prison, have to do one year of community service and have your licence taken away for a period of between one and four years.

Those who are repeat offenders and have been caught drink driving before will automatically be fined €1,000 and have either four or six points taken off their licence, depending on the level, providing it’s below 60mg/l.

If you refuse to take a breathalyser test, you could be sentenced to between six and 12 months in jail and have your licence taken away for between one and four years.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also