Tougher Drunk Driving Laws (Lei Seca) in Brazil
Traffic accidents are the second-leading cause of death in Brazil, behind homicides. According to the Ministry of Health, about 40,000 Brazilians die in traffic accidents every year.
With the goal of reducing the high number of traffic accidents and fatalities on the roads of Brazil, the Código de Trânsito Brasileiro (Brazilian Traffic Code) was amended in 2012 to significantly increase penalties, including criminal penalties, for those found driving under the influence of alcohol.
Under the revised version of the Lei Seca (“Dry Law”), those found with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.06 or higher will receive a much larger fine of R$1,915, up from R$957 under the 2009 law. That BAC level can easily be reached after drinking as little as three cans of beer. Also, anyone caught violating the new law for a second time in 12 months must pay a fine of R$4,000.
Road fatalities dropped by 20% after the initial drunk-driving law went into effect in 2009. When stopped by a police officer, drivers were asked to submit to a breathalyzer test. However, many drivers refused to take the test, relying on their constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Under the amended version of the Lei Seca that went into effect in December 2012, police officers are no longer limited to an optional breathalyzer test for enforcement. They are now able to use other evidence including photographs, videos, and witness statements to convince a judge that someone was driving under the influence of alcohol or another addictive substance.
Know Your Limits
It’s important to know your personal limits when it comes to drinking. Your BAC is the measurement of the amount of alcohol in your blood stream. For example, a BAC of 0.06 means that 0.06% of your total blood content is alcohol.
There are many factors that impact your BAC. Your BAC is affected by your gender, body weight, metabolism, the amount of alcohol consumed, the concentration of alcohol per drink, the time spent drinking, certain medications, and several other factors.
Also, the more you drink and the quicker you drink, the more likely you are to experience alcohol’s depressant effects and a greater impact on your driving abilities. Your BAC spikes when you drink quickly. But when you drink the same amount of alcohol over a longer period of time, you can better moderate your BAC with the goal of staying below 0.06 BAC. As an added benefit, you will get greater enjoyment out of your beverage.
Know Your Rights
Remember that under the new law, police officers have more tools at their disposal to identify, fine, and arrest intoxicated drivers. The law also applies to drivers under the influence of drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. That’s why it is crucial for you to immediately seek legal assistance to protect your rights if you are charged with violating the Lei Seca.