Hiring a Lawyer to defend for your Drink Driving Case in Singapore

How much can you drink and drive in Singapore

Basically the answer, is DON’T try.  Although there is a limit, the ability for everyone is different.  Some maybe half a standard drink is already gone dead drunk while some can drink like a whale and nothing happens.

Let us relook at the limits and the penalties involved, in Singapore, the level of alcohol is considered over if you have the following level of alcohol in your breadth or blood stream.  This is actually just a gauge, if anything below, the Traffic Police is still able to charge you for drink driving.  Anything that is above is considered DRUNK driving and depending on the how much MG of alcohol is present.

1) 35 micro grams of alcohol in 100 ml of breath- this means that for every 100 ml of breath, the amount of alcohol present should be less than 35 micro grams

2) 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 ml of blood- this means that the alcohol content in 100 ml of blood should be less than 80 milligrams.

So how much is it exactly in measurement of drinks.  To speak the truth, there is no standard for this , it really all depends on the ability of the person whether he or she is able to break down the alcohol fast or slow.

What is a standard Alcoholic Drink?

Every glass every container for your drink is different.  Therefore the best gauge is by the alcohol level present in your drink.

Regular beer has about 5% alcohol content

Light beer has about 4.2% alcohol content

Wines are about 12%-14%

Hard Liqour starts from 20+% to even 50+%.

The following diagram will show you what a standard drink gauge is like:

credits: Hiaaa.nih.gov
credits: Hiaaa.nih.gov

Generally speaking, if we really go by the book, one standard drink has about 14 gm of alcohol.  If that is the case, one standard drink would have already busted the limit for the roads.

How you can be charged for Drink Driving in Singapore?

Many motorists always think, if I am sober when I am driving, it is okay, I will not get caught.  Well, if you are lucky and get away then that hypothesis is correct but what if the TP want to check every car on the roads, or you happen to be one of those people who look like a red lobster after just one drink.  Then good luck, as long as you fail the test, you get the charge.  We are looking at the minor scenarios here, where the TP does road blocks to check on drink driving drivers.

The serious ones are those that involves accidents or even fatality.  The case becomes more complicated, traffic police will need to gather more information especially if the defendant is totally unconscious and cannot recall much.  This is when the situation is very dire.

The Drink Driving Penalty in Singapore

Extracted from the Road Traffic act itself:

Section 67: Driving while under influence of drink or drugs

(1)  Any person who, when driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place —

(a) is unfit to drive in that he is under the influence of drink or of a drug or an intoxicating substance to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of such vehicle; or
(b) has so much alcohol in his body that the proportion of it in his breath or blood exceeds the prescribed limit,
shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months and, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine of not less than $3,000 and not more than $10,000 and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months.

As mentioned in many of the posts here, if it involves accident or fatality, you can be charged with other clauses in the Road Traffic Act.  The more common charges to come along with the drink driving charge:

section 64: Reckless or Dangerous driving: More for driving without due care like speeding, zig zag manner.  Totally disregard the safety of the other road users.

section 65: Driving without due care of reasonable consideration:  This charge is slightly milder that section 64, but it states the intention of the driver for not taking due care to give considerations to other road users on the road.

section 66: Causing Death by Dangerous or Reckless Driving.  This section is very serious, it is somewhat intentionally causing the death of other road users.

section 84: Duty to stop in accidents: Failure for stopping in all accidents can result in the following penalty:

(a) to a fine not exceeding $3,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months; and
(b) in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine not exceeding $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.
These are the most common ones, but there are other possibilities or other charges like using of mobile phones, failing to fasten seat belt.
If your charge is just one on DRINK DRIVING in Singapore, and you are caught on the spot by TP from breathalyser or some blood test, then really to speak, accept the sentence like a man and just serve your term.  UNLESS You really never drink drive ( touch your heart on this ), then consider hire a lawyer.  But if you did, the best is to accept the sentence plead guilty and quickly get out of the court 21 as early as fast as possible.
What if I have more sentences charged and my limit exceeded too much?
Depending what is your mentality, if you are money tight and do not really care about having a jail sentence related to drink driving under your belt, then by all means just plead guilty and accept it.  Every offenders case is different, where the accident took place or where you are caught and under what circumstance which you are caught with also differ.  So if you are browsing through the SG Car Forum just to get some standard answer for your case, then I suggest that you take more time to read through the Road Traffic Act and assess your own case instead.  You can seek some advice from the forum folks, but they are not the judge, all they can give is some sort of advice and likelihood of your case outcome.
Basically if you are reading this then your case is considered heavy and especially fatality involved.  Get your priorities right when you are in this situation and seriously do not regret, panic and just lose yourself.  Get composed, be calm and analyse through.  Also you will need to share your case with your family and friends.  Going through the whole episode alone is not easy and somewhat not possible morally and physically.  You need your close friends and family to help give you sound advice and offer you support.
Step 1: How many charges are imposed on you?
If just one drink driving summon, then like I said, do not bother, quickly go to court and get over and done.  If there are 2 or more charges and if there are fatalities involved.  Get yourself a lawyer.  If the case is complicated and also imply a situation that you intentionally try to shirk off your responsibility.  Then you will be in for a good show.  If section 84 is one of the charges, it will be good to get a lawyer,  to defend for you on why you did not stop for the accident and why you never assist to help.
Step 2: Will I go to Jail?  Am I okay to go to Jail?
If you have no money, or you do not really care if there is jail sentence history for you.  Then seriously there is no need for a lawyer, but if you have a reputation to keep, families to take care of etc etc.  And your case is serious, please just hire a lawyer, you might think this is waste of money and you can just defend your way out.  Think again, why is there law faculty, why there are lawyers in this world and you are not one.  The lawyers are trained to handle court situation and abide court rules and manners which we layman will never know.  If you chose to defend, and you do not know what to do in court.  You could end up messing up the hearing and get even more severe sentence.  THE COURT IS NOT A PLACE FOR DRAMA, which many offenders fail to see.  The court is a place where you need to treat it with utmost respect and clarity.  DO not attempt to go in and argue, you end up getting a heavier penalty.
Step 3: Who do I hire to represent me for drink driving in Singapore?
When the case befall on me, I was very devastated.  I did not know what to do.  Where do I go and find a Drink Driving lawyer in Singapore? Information on these sort of matter is very limited.  And if I go straight to the lawyer, I might need to pay.  Tight on finances, I was really lost.  The IO assigned to me can only tell me that the case is rather serious and jail term might be imposed, but couldn’t give a definite answer.  Anyway they are NOT supposed to as they are on the prosecuting side.  So out of desperation, I went to a cheesy small law firm in Chinatown which actually does not handle too many court cases for advice.  The lawyer agreed to wrap up the case with no jail sentence for a fee of $8,000.  Which to me then I thought if I can avoid all costs to not go to jail, I will do it.  I paid a deposit of $500 that day.  After that, I kinda regret because talking to one of the interns in this small firm, she told me that the lawyers here hardly “win” any cases and all they want is to quickly wrap it up and collect the fees.
I got worried, went home to think about it again and again.  I decided to withdraw from this small cheesy firm.  I called up the lawyer, and the true colours showed.  Even though we have not signed the papers of contract, he insisted that the $500 was Consultation fees! Which he said analysing and consultation is for FREE when we first met.  But now, he changed his statement.  I was stupid not to get all these down on black and white.  I guess I was too depressed and could not handle many things my self with all these happening around.  Dumbly, I gave up the $500 because I just want to move on.
This is what happens when you do not calm down and be rational and all you think is the court, the charge, the jail terms and life after.  Think about the case calmly at this point be focused.  If you want to look for a lawyer in Singapore, do not go for some small firms with not much experience in handling court cases.  Go to the more reputable ones and also having track record of representing in court before.  A good lawyer will not promise you that you will be 100% acquitted, but they will do their best.  If you really do not want jail term, then it is NOT the time to scrimp.
In that state, I realise I will need some support and started asking my friends for help.  In the beginning, out of embarrassment, I did not want to share with anyone, even my family.  But I realise eventually I will need the help to tide through these, so I told my family and also my closer friends about it.  Of course, they were disappointed but it is better that they know and help to tide you through these tough period.  It was also through a good friend that I got to know my lawyer, he comes from a reputable firm who has been around in Singapore for 60 over years in Raffles Place.
Meeting up with the Lawyer
I still remember the first time I met him, I have never engaged a lawyer in my life before, there are so many things that I did not know , what to look out for, what to ask.   I have heard many ” stories” that the lawyer is all out to “grab your money”  even photocopying one paper also cost!  5 minutes of their time will cost you a few hundreds.  Well that is all myths.
The moment I heard Raffles Place.  I was thinking that this time I will need to burn my bank account.  But stepping in into their new gleaming office right in the heart of Singapore, I was taken aback how humble this lawyer was actually as compared to the “shady sham” business I had in Chinatown.  He asked for my charges which I showed him, and asked me what were my expectations.  I told him the real truth , that I do not mind a fine and suspension of licence but no jail term.  Reading through the case and situation, he gave me very sound advice, with no promises.  Because my case was complicated and there were four charges involved, furthermore the exceed in limit for 3-4 times higher.  I was totally unconscious when they got me.  I was speechless, but what am I to expect.  2 out of the 4 charges carries imprisonment penalties.  I told him, just try your best.
Feeling better with this lawyer, I decided to engage him  and we negotiated a price.  Since I was not going to “fight” for the case, but just to resolve with the highest mitigation possible.  The price was a five figure, which I felt was reasonable.  He also did not charge me any consultation fees and told me to think about it before making the decision.
I left the firm, feeling more at ease, somehow I felt with this lawyer, I will be safe, I can trust him.  That evening, I sent the lawyer a SMS and requested him to represent me for the court.
From Court to Verdict..
I will cut the real details for all the court hearings I went to for a whole good 7 months.  Believe me, it was the most torturous  period of my life.  I could not eat and sleep properly, and I am on bail from each court hearing to the next.  The lawyer needed time to gather more information to help mitigate and improve my situation.
To speak the truth, the judge really do not like to handle lawyers.  Because it gives them the impression that you are trying to shirk off your responsibility and be acquitted.  But if your lawyer knows the judges well, their character and what to and not to do and say in court.  It can really gain you a lot of winning points.
I have seen really “incompetent ” lawyers in the court, making really ridiculous statements in a frantic to save their clients from the harshest verdict.   They did not assess the situation properly, or even the case thoroughly.  They overlooked the evidence and got scolded by the judge!  This not only left bad impressions, and the judge got so angry that verdict was given out straight.  The defendant in the end had to go for appeal.  Which will mean a longer time and effort to clear the charge.
My 7 months of hearing was not at all smooth at times, my lawyer, after a week of engaging him, briefed me on his strategy for the case.  He was going to get the Attorney General to compile the case to either 3 or 2 charges. How to mitigate the case was another crucial point.   In between, we also did a psychological test to proof my inability to handle alcohol well.  This portion can be a double edged sword as it could also be against me that if I am not tolerant of alcohol, I should be more cautious about drinking and driving.  But my lawyer told me when there is a 50% chance, we should always try it.  I also gathered all my voluntary work and other contributions to the society to go as mitigating factors.
In the end, we cleared the case by compiling the 4 charges to 2.  The judge had been lenient.  But In any case, I was very grateful to him as I did not get a jail term in the end.
 
Choosing a Lawyer
That is not to say that only lawyers from reputable firms in Raffles Place can only help you with your situation.  But some pointers I gather from choosing your lawyer,
  • Realistic about the situation:  He does not promise you total acquitting from the case, but more of analysing the situation and recommend what is the best for you, despite your expectations.
  • Long experience in the law field: You can find out about these online or just asking the lawyer yourself.  Generally more established firms are able to represent you better in court.
  • Listens to you:  My lawyer was very patient and always shares with me his strategy and the steps that we are taking to handle the case.  I have heard of cases where the lawyer just tell the client not to ask not to bother and leave everything to them.  In the end, the client did not like what the lawyer was doing and actually changed to another lawyer.  A good lawyer will not judge your background and share with you his intentions.
  • Clear about the finances:  In my case, the payment schedule was drafted out before the court and we went by 3 installments to clear all the payment.  The firm really did not charge me anything extra that what was agreed and also they were always clear on what extra charges that I need to pay and always ask me first before they proceed for anything extra.  For example the psychological test was an extra charge, but the lawyer did not force me to do it, instead, he told me this is an optional item, if I am really tight on budget, I can give it a miss.
  • Always communicate and be clear with you:  My case I will say I was really lucky to engage this lawyer, everything was transparent, and when I was in doubt, I always ask him.  There were not ” eh eh o o” kind of uncertainty in his replies, he was always sure of what he wants to do and always update me of the current progress of the case outside of court.  This is very important as you need to know what is happening and what to expect.  This strong rapport is going to help you a lot in court.

Was it worth it?

Could I do this alone?  No never!

It was the most expensive lesson learnt in my life.  But I must say.  When I walked out of the court without jail sentence! I wished I could have given my lawyer more.  All these while when I sit at home sweaty about the case, he and his assistant were compiling the reports and arranging with AGC to review my case, sometimes through the nights, as I could still receive e mails from them past midnight.

All the 7 hearings, representing me and getting queried by the harsher Judges, while I stand behind the defendant stand quietly.  Most importantly, the kind of assurance that I get that its only a matter of time I will be fine, like in safe hands.  I would say that it was all worth it to get that lawyer, to get that kind of professionalism and reliability to back and support you in the toughest times in court.

The case was closed, my lawyer was relieved that we managed to leave that jail sentence out.  I still send him Greetings during festivals and sometimes I jokingly ask him should I refer “friends” to you, he will always joke and say : ” Other people …yes… but I do not want to see you for another traffic case!”