Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (酒気帯び運転, shuki obi unten)
Driving Under the Influence is the lesser of Japan’s two drunk driving charges. Even if a driver shows no signs of drunkenness, if the amount of alcohol in their body is greater than the set limit, they are guilty of DUI. The level for DUI is .15 milligrams of alcohol in one liter of exhaled air during a breath test. The penalty for DUI is up to one year in prison or a 300,000 yen fine. In addition, if the breath test shows .15-.24 milligrams per liter, six points are tacked on to the offender’s license resulting in at least an immediate thirty day license suspension. If the breath test shows .25 milligrams per liter or more, thirteen points are tacked on to the offender’s license, resulting in at least a ninety day license suspension.
Driving While Intoxicated (酒酔い運転, sake yoi unten)
Driving While Intoxicated is the greater of Japan’s two drunk driving charges. Regardless of the amount of alcohol in the blood, if a police officer believes that the driver is not able to drive properly through an assessment of speech or actions, the driver is guilty of DWI. The penalty for DWI is up to three years in prison or a fine of up to 500,000 yen. In addition, those convicted of DWI lose their license, and may not apply for a new one for two years.
Note about Bicycles
Riding a bicycle is counted as driving a “light vehicle” in the eyes of the law. DUI does not apply to “light vehicles,” so a person riding a bicycle may not be arrested for DUI. However, DWI does apply to light vehicles, so if a bicycle rider is visibly drunk, they can be arrested for DWI.