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What happens when you get caught drink driving in Pattaya

This letter was sent to me from a reader regarding the recent crackdown on drink driving in Thailand. You shouldn't be driving drunk especially in Pattaya so if you get caught you really can't complain about the repercussions. In the letter it says that no assistance or translations were provided which under Thai law as I understand it is not what is supposed to happen but I can understand, doing a crackdown on drink driving in Pattaya would result in a lot of arrests and the police department here wouldn't have the resources nor the time to deal with everyone. One thing you never want to do is get arrested in Thailand for anything and if you have got caught for anything make sure you can do whatever you can to get out of it before you get taken to the police station. Once your at the station no matter how much a bribe or who you think you know, nothing or no one can help you.

A word of warning for those farang who may occasionally have a drink
or two, and then drive a motorbike or car in Pattaya.

As of Friday 13th April Pattaya Police are actively using breath
testing to test for people over the drink driving limit of 0.05. They
have digital breath testing units they can setup and will stop all
traffic, as they do when they have a blitz on.

On Friday 13th April at 2am until about 5am they setup on the corner
of 2nd Road and Pattaya Thai (Pattaya South Road), where they often
sit looking for people not wearing a helmet. They were stopping all
bikes (didn't see any cars but they were on the road blocking most
traffic) farang and Thai. They were breath testing all - not sobriety
test, straight onto the digital breath testing units. The units have a
digital display and a printer. Once you blow if the reading is about
0.050 then they print out the reading and you are arrested on the
spot. You will then be taken to the Pattay Soi 9 watchhouse and locked
up in the holding cells.

Your phone will be confiscated and you are not allowed a phone call or
to contact anyone. Farang's are locked up with Thai's (men and women)
in the one lockup in the police station. Not air conditioned, very
basic, no seats, just concrete floors, the toilet is behind a waist
high concrete barrier and is a bowl with no seat, just a hose and a
bucket. This doubles as the shower area, if you were so inclined or
happened to be locked up for many days like some of the farang over
stay people in there. No water or food is provided, you need someone
on the outside to bring you that - and they are generally allowed to
hand it through to you. On Friday about 18 farangs were detained
(Australians, Americans, Italians, Iran, Israel, India, Swiss -
holiday makers and long stayers) and 10+ thai's for drink driving and
other offences. If you don't have your passport - it's more difficult
- they need to be able to positively ID you to begin processing the
You are generally not told what will happen or what the process is -
if you have someone on the outside then they can get some of the story
and relay it, but generally you do not know what will happen or when.
And if you are told - it's likely to change, and of course "just wait
10 minutes" really means 2+ hours at least.

Once they have processed all the paperwork, and you have signed some
documents in Thai (no translation available, no legal advice, just "is
this you? sign here), you will be finger printed (in the cells, Thai
long stay prisoners do the finger printing). This took from 5am until
midday of waiting in the holding cells at the watch house. Then when
everyone is processed you are ready to be moved to the Privincial
Court House at Jomtien. To move you all the prisoners (Farang and
Thai) are handcuffed and chained together in one long line. Then
marched down to a paddy wagon, all squeezed in, some standing for the
drive from Soi 9 to the court house at Jomtien. You are then unloaded
into the holding area in the court house. The holding area is under
the building, not air conditoned, You are unshackled, you have to take
your shoes off and sit on the concrete floor. No seating, no smoking,
no standing. Sit on the floor with all the other Thai's waiting to be
processed. The only toilet available is very bad, there are rubber
boots outside that you need to wear because the floor is 1cm deep in
urine and the smell is so bad you have to hold your breath (it makes
the toilet in the watch house look luxurious). The whole area wreaks
of urine as the other holding cells (for those Thai's being held for
more serious crimes) just has open urinals. During this process - no
communication, no advice, no phone calls allowed, you are told "just
wait" ... if you have someone on the outside who knows where you are
they can bring you water and snacks, you can also buy some thai food
that is sold by a local kitchen. The farangs were processed in the
last court sitting of the day, after sitting on the floor from midday
until 6pm, signing various court documents during the afternoon.

No translation is provided into any language, all documents are in
Thai, no legal advice provided, no explanations - very little english
spoken, only enough to get you to sign documents and tell you "sit
down", "stand up", "come here". If you dont sign the document you will
not be processed - there is no option. In the court room there is no
visitor gallery, no visitors allowed, no legal representation, no
translation available. About 40 people are processed at the same time,
sitting on wooden benches or on the floor. The judge (a woman in this
case) speaks NO english (she even had to get help from someone to read
out the amounts of the fines in English). Each person with a related
charge has their name read out in turn, then stands, the judge then
addresses everyone in Thai, then decides on a penalty and reads that
out in Thai. For drink driving a motorbike you can expect a fine of
2500 to 2700 baht ... Thai and farang the same. There was no
discrimination, positive or negative - you get treated like a Thai.
Once all have been sentenced you have to pay the fine to the clerk of
the court, on the spot. If you couldn't pay you would be locked up
again until you can pay. If you have someone on the outside you are
permitted to liaise with them for them to get you the money. You may
also be escorted to your accommodation to get money as a last resort.

You will now be relieved that it is all over and ready to walk free,
as you have been watching all the Thai's do once they are sentenced
... but wait, there is more!!

If you are a farang you now need to have your passport checked for any
possible visa violations - overstay's, back to back tourist visa's
etc. However at 6pm on a Saturday night (even worse on a Songkran long
weekend) there are no immigration officials available to check your
passports. So it's back to the Soi 9 lockup. The trip back to the
lockup is sitting packed into the back of a police utility truck, all
sitting around the edge packed into the open tray (interesting lack of
safety concern given you have just been booked for an equally
dangerous driving offence). You will then be locked up again until the
police can arrange for immigration to check your passport. None of
this is told to you in advance, you are told as it happens, and after
thinking you are processed and free, being put back into the holding
cells at Soi 9 is a shock - particularly then being told it's likely
you will be held until the next day (which is a Sunday - so perhaps 2
but Monday is a public holiday in Thailand - so perhaps 3 days).
Fortunately through some furious negotiations by some Thai supporters
of some of the farangs how had been assisting, those farangs who had
been able to provide a passport to police were advised they would be
let out immediately, and then return at a later date for the
immigration check (the police will hold your passport). This was at
11:00pm (after returning from the court about 9pm), the farangs with
the passports were then called out and released from the cells one at
a time. The group being released is then detained further in an office
while the head of police decides how to handle the processing, you
then have your passport photocopied (main page and visa page), you
were given the copy and asked to return to the police station the
following week to meet immigration, and collect you phone, passport
and motorbike at that time (assuming no immigration violations). Only
then, after the 18 hour ordeal are you free to leave.

NO "tourist police" were present or available at any time during this
process (not that I believe they would be able to help anyway - but
interesting in their absence the entire time considering how high
profile they like to be on walking st).

Also - don't think you can flash a few baht and get let off. I'm aware
of a number if discreet attempts directed to the police at the testing
station of amounts up to 3k baht which were politely returned.

This story if from my personal experience, I was riding a scooter. I
have lived in Thailand for 5+ years, I speak reasonable Thai, I have a
Thai drivers license, I had 10k baht in cash on me, I had Thai helpers
on the outside who know police and were able to plead my case to all
levels of police. None of this helped me get processed any faster or
dealt with any better. Not that would expect it too - but just as
advice for those farang who think they are "special".

I have no complaints - I was guilty. In future I will be catching a taxi.

There is a new police chief in town - and he is cracking down on drink driving.

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About Chris

Chris founded LivingThai.org in 2011 and has received over 3 million visitors. He has lived here for over 10 years and speaks reads and writes very good Thai.

21 Responses to What happens when you get caught drink driving in Pattaya

  1. ChiangMaiGuy April 23, 2012 at 5:14 am #

    Nightmare! but it may save lives… they seem to be cracking down on helmets in Chiang Mai too and the 200 baht ‘present’ to get off there and then is no more.

  2. Stein April 23, 2012 at 6:33 am #

    Interesting read, Chris. Good on you for not having any complaints. Suspect many others would be less reasonable about it.

    I’m puzzled as to why they take your phone though.
    I.e., what would have happened if you had neither the money
    to pay the fine, nor any friends who happened to see you
    were taken in?

    • Chris April 23, 2012 at 7:01 am #

      well it wasn’t me who got caught but I know 5 different people now who got done they all know they were in the wrong so they can’t complain about it. I’m pretty sure if you get arrested in any country your belongings are taken not that I get arrested a lot 🙂 If you don’t have the money they would lock you up until you can pay, if you can’t pay that will help you contact someone who will pay. If no one will pay then I can only assume you get held for the maximum amount of time before being released but really, it’s 3000 baht, they know you can pay.

      • Welsh wizard September 7, 2018 at 10:55 pm #

        Well it was me that got caught, it cost me 30.000. Not taken to pattaya beach road station. Called my daughter in law who came with the cash., receipt given all above board. Now I do not ride the bike but book a room.

  3. fas April 23, 2012 at 8:05 am #

    drink driving.. what about drunk blogging 😛

    • Chris April 23, 2012 at 8:14 am #

      lol, I think the urban term is Blodrunk = blogging while drunk 🙂

  4. Shagster April 23, 2012 at 8:40 am #

    Did you hear if they had to go to the immigration office on Tuesday or did they get the passports from Soi 9 on Tuesday? Also did you hear about any ‘over-payments’ made and amounts? I heard some people try to do a payoff but it results in lost money and nobody is let free until the end anyway. And my last question is do you know if anybody was deported?

    • Chris April 23, 2012 at 8:42 am #

      I’ve only heard of people getting deported after committing a serious crime, never for something like drunk driving or working without a permit and white collar crime. Bascially you have to do a real hard core crime to get deported.

      • Shagster April 23, 2012 at 8:52 am #

        Talk about a waste of time. It sounds like they wanted to either 1) Get the big pay off or 2) Make it a pain for foreigners (majority probably tourists) to teach a lesson. Not a lesson of don’t drink and drive because they would have been released with the Thais, but instead a lesson of – don’t mess with the cops if you’re not a local.

  5. bacardiboy April 24, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    thanks for the info …………… never will i hire a bike . better to use taxi’s

  6. jack April 27, 2012 at 6:10 am #

    well i,m glad i gave up drinkin……….I must admit i enjoyed the freedom of having a couple of drinks and riding home when in Thailand. I never got shitfaced when riding but one beer dont go far when in the tropics , all good things must come to an end (who says so) anyway another reason among many to avoid pattya.

  7. Brian Sumpter April 27, 2012 at 7:38 am #

    I got caught driving without a Thai license on Sukhamvit Rd. just south of Central road at 11am in early April. I was sweating, but it was an on the spot 200 baht fine, and the collector wasn’t checking for any priors. It was on the southbound side. There is an easy area to set up a large checkpoint.

    • Chris April 27, 2012 at 9:10 am #

      Did you have a licence at all? You don’t actually need a Thai licence depends on how long you’ve lived here normally you can get away with it if you have a foriegn licence. Still get a Thai licence it takes a day out of your life but worth it for insurance reasons. Cause an accident without one and your fucked.

  8. Johnnie Walker April 27, 2012 at 8:49 am #

    No food or water provided, you need to get soneone from the outside to bring it in. Yet you have no means to contact anyone.

    How does that work then?

    • Chris April 27, 2012 at 9:05 am #

      Not sure, I never want to be one on the inside, but I guess if you were caught and you were with people they’d know where you were.

  9. Rad Bob April 29, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

    Sounds brutal dude

    Whats up with no thai license no insurance thing, so the insurance that came with my bike when I bought it is no good?

    Missing Chiang Mai man ? Prob see ya on the 4th.

    • Chris April 29, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

      I think if I understand it, if your not legally able to drive then this increases the charges brought to you if you caused an accident. Even if you didn’t cause it you are still at fault because your legally not supposed to be on the road therefore if you wern’t on the road there would be no accident. Yeah miss Chiang Mai can’t wait to go back to visit. Catch you on the 4th.

  10. Dannyboy6 June 14, 2014 at 2:31 am #

    Having a International Driving License helps a Great Deal for Checkpoints, but won’t help you get off a drunk driving offense…

  11. GORDON July 29, 2016 at 9:45 am #

    i was caught drink driving 3 days ag0 on 26th july at 4am,at nonplabwan ,police said i was 61 instead of 50. got print out from the machine at back of his pick up .breatherlizer was not connected to machine poluce told me this was wi fi connected .is it true aND NOW POLICE IN PATTAYA HAVE WI FI CONNECTED BREATHERLIZER TO MACHINE IN THEIR PIC UP .I DID NOT SEE HIM PRESS ANY BUTTONS ON MACHINE .PLEASE CONFORM IF I WAS SCAMMED TO PAY 10000 BAHT WHICH I DID

  12. Billy October 16, 2016 at 11:48 pm #

    Gordon. Had you been drinking? If so how much?
    I too was tested and told I was going to jail and court in the morning. Pretty sure I was over the limit and I offered to pay as I didn’t want the court and jail BS.
    I paid 10k after bargaining.
    I accept it was my stupidity and I was lucky to be able to buy myself out like that. In the West it’s jail. Heavy fine and ban.
    If you hadn’t been drinking fair enough maybe you were scammed.

  13. Jak April 14, 2018 at 12:35 pm #

    20,000 Thai sounds very strong punishment, for developing country that has been built on top of third World infrastructure, but the jails in Thai you can get life threatening malaria, hepatitis A B but C never goes away and destroys life’s + dendy fever + HIV if you get assaulted + bacterial infections that can kill you + many dangerous viruses blah blah death sentence possibly, or tortured tortured by disease for the rest of your life Thai law for .05 the land of smiles.

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