Wednesday, December 20th 2023

Getting a DUI in Mexico

Written by

Rafael Bracho

Get Instant Quotes

Find out today why thousands of expats use us as their trusted brokerage abroad. Click below to get instant quotes to all of our providers.

Quote Now

Join our newsletter!


Getting a DUI in Mexico

Mexico is well known for its cheap drinks, party lifestyle, and the occasional bad decision. Unfortunately, when you mix these three things, you get a recipe for disaster. Every year, hundreds of foreigners get DUIs in Mexico.

Driving under the influence is a crime in Mexico. You could face serious legal consequences if you’re arrested for driving while intoxicated in Mexico. You’ll likely be jailed, fined, and possibly even deported.

Worse yet, if you’re driving drunk, you could get injured. The most important thing you can do to protect yourself in case of an emergency is to get comprehensive expat insurance. With our Smart Quote Tool, you can get a price quote in less than a minute for over 65 policies! (Click here to access our quote tool.)

In this articee, we’ll cover the alcohol and public-intoxication laws in Mexico, and what to do if you’re in the unfortunate situation of getting arrested in Mexico for driving under the influence. It’s our hope that the information contained here will prevent you from getting a DUI in Mexico.


Mexican Driving Laws

Getting a DUI in Mexico

There are many driving laws in Mexico, some of which are very typical—such as drinking and driving or being under the influence of drugs in Mexico. If you cause an automobile accident, you may be tested to see if you’re under the influence of drugs. (To read our article on what to do in a car accident in Mexico, click here). Also, If you’re illegally carrying firearms in the car, that could also be a cause for concern to Mexican police.

Fines vary from city to city, however typical fines for different driving infractions are:

  • $23 USD – $69 USD for failure to stop at a red light.
  • $23 USD – $46 USD for failure to use a seatbelt.
  • $23 USD – $46 USD for driving without a vehicle registration or a driver’s license.
  • $46 USD for using your cell phone while driving
  • $46 USD – $139 USD for exceeding the speed limit
  • $139 USD – $185 USD for a DUI in Mexico (It’s the most expensive!)


You should know that ignorance is not a viable defense in court. Neither is saying that you didn’t understand the language or didn’t see a particular sign. You are in a foreign country and having laws in their official language is sufficient for any legal system on the planet.

Mexican Drinking Laws

Getting a DUI in Mexico

Mexico has laws against public intoxication, just like the United States. For example, you can be fined $46 USD – $185 USD for drinking on streets, in your parked car, sidewalks, or public property. You can also be fined for disturbing the peace, being a public nuisance, fighting, nudity or other “immoral conduct”, and/or possession or use of restricted or illegal drugs.

You can have serious problems with Mexican authorities if you become unruly or drink excessive amounts. Also, the vast majority of violent crimes, arrests, accidents, rapes, and deaths suffered by American students on Spring Break involve alcohol.

If you’re guilty of making obscene or insulting remarks, lewd or indecent acts, disturbing the peace, DUI, littering, drinking in public or on public transportation—or using public transportation without paying—these are all considered crimes in Mexico.


In addition, importing, buying, or possessing drugs can have severe legal consequences, including imprisonment without bail for up to a year before the case is tried—and then if you’re convicted, you could be imprisoned for a further several years if found guilty. All individuals over the age of 16 are tried as adults in Mexico.

What to Do If You Are Stopped by an Officer

Getting a DUI in Mexico

If you’re stopped by a police officer while driving, then insist—politely!—that you get a written citation, "una multa, por favor", which can be paid through legal channels. Many officers are fishing for bribes, but this is illegal in Mexico. The practice will continue as long as people continue to pay them.

If the officer is fishing for a bribe, you can file a complaint with your local State Secretariat of Tourism. Get the name, agency, badge, and/or patrol car number. You’ll need them for the citation.

Furthermore, if you insist on a ticket, there is a chance the officer will let you go with a warning. Otherwise, they will give you a ticket and confiscate your license and take it to the impound building of their jurisdiction. You will have to go to this office during open hours to pay the ticket and recover your license.

Breaking Mexican Law

Getting a DUI in Mexico

If you’re visiting or living in Mexico, you are expected to follow Mexican law. If you break the law, this could lead to difficult legal proceedings and costly medical expenses—generally, at great expense to the traveler. The best thing you can do to protect yourself when living or traveling abroad is to get expat health insurance. Click here to access our Smart Quote Tool and get a quote for over 65 policies in under a minute!

Mexican Law can impose harsh penalties for violations—including some things that would typically be considered minor in the United States—and foreign citizenship won’t exempt you from full prosecution under Mexican law.

If you are from the U.S. and you find yourself in legal trouble in Mexico, then you should contact your closest U.S. Consular Agency, American Consulate, or the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. U.S. Consular Officials can visit detained citizens while in prison, while providing information about the Mexican legal system, and even give you a list of Mexican attorneys that are recommended by the American government.

*For our article on how to get help from your embassy during an emergency, click here.

Driving Drunk in Mexico

Getting a DUI in Mexico

If you’re driving drunk in Mexico, it’s also a criminal offense—like it is in the United States. In most Mexican states, the alcohol limit is the same as in the US: .08. However, there are some states with even lower, and in some cases, there’s a zero tolerance for blood alcohol levels.

For instance, the legal limit is 0.05 in the state of Chihuahua and 0.04 in:

  • Aguascalientes
  • Chiapas
  • Ciudad de México (CDMX)
  • Estado de México (State of Mexico)
  • Hidalgo
  • Jalisco
  • Michoacan
  • Tamaulipas
  • Veracruz

The legal limit is 0.0:

  • If you’re transporting heavy goods in your vehicle
  • If you’re transporting toxic waste in your vehicle
  • If you’re driving with a learner’s permit
  • If you’re driving a public transportation vehicle

You can be pulled over if you’re suspected of driving under the influence and you’ll be administered a breathalyzer test. If you have a previous conviction of driving under the influence in your home country, you may be denied entry into Mexico.

Alcohol breathalyzer checkpoints are common in many Mexican cities. Police are allowed to stop motorists and make them take a breathalyzer test (called alcoholímetro in Spanish). Checkpoints during the daytime focus more on service drivers, while checkpoints at night focus more on the general public.


Legal Alcohol Limit in Mexico

Getting a DUI in Mexico

Your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is a standard measure referring to the amount of ethanol in a person’s bloodstream. These measurements refer to milligrams of ethanol per millimeter of blood (mg/ml). Mexican states vary in the national limit of ethanol that you’re allowed to have in your blood stream if you’re operating a vehicle, as mentioned above.

If you’re a foreigner, and you have a previous DUI conviction in the last 10 years, you may be refused entry into Mexico.

Driving Drunk Can Void Your Auto Insurance

Getting a DUI in Mexico

You must have Mexican auto insurance if you want to drive anywhere in Mexico—including the border areas within 25 kilometers of the US border.

There are several ways to negate your Mexican auto insurance, and drunk driving in Mexico is one of them. If you’ve crashed your vehicle, your claim will be denied if it’s discovered that you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol beyond the legal limit

Going to Jail in Mexico

Getting a DUI in Mexico


1.If you are suspected of driving intoxicated, then you’ll likely be taken to jail to evaluate your condition. (Be warned that if you’re driving under the influence, your health insurance will not cover any injuries you sustain while committing a crime, such as driving under the influence.)

2.A driver found to be over the limit may be detained for a minimum of 20 and maximum of 36 hours. This is mandatory and cannot be substituted by a fine or a caution. Sobriety checkpoint officers are notorious as some of the only police that will never accept a bribe. As of December 2014, drivers apprehended for drunk driving twice in a single year, or three times in three or more years will have their licenses or permits revoked.

3.If there is a passenger in the car who holds a valid driving license and is under the legal alcohol limit, then with the permission of the arrested driver they may take the car. Otherwise, the car is impounded.

4.If you are sent to a Mexican jail, then you should ask for legal representation on your behalf. If you don’t think the accident was your fault, and you’re directed to the local police station, once you’re there, ask for a lawyer.

5.Also, if you’re taken to the police station, call your country’s embassy! Your country’s State Department can help you access legal services and a bilingual lawyer as needed. Your Mexican insurance might cover your legal assistance, bail bond or other costs.

6.Included in your Mexican auto insurance is bail bond insurance. BE SURE TO HAVE AUTO INSURANCE IN MEXICO, and they’ll cover whatever bail is required for you to get out of jail.

*For our article on how to get help from your embassy during an emergency, click here.



Getting a DUI in Mexico

In the end, if you’re going to drink alcohol, the best thing you can do to avoid getting a DUI in Mexico is to not drive drunk. Take a taxi or use rideshare apps like Uber, or use public transportation. Ask a friend for a ride or walk home.

Ultimately, the inconvenience any of those solutions pose is far outweighed by the consequences of going to a Mexican jail, dealing with costly fines and legal fees, and possibly getting deported. In some cases, people can be seriously injured and need urgent hospital care.

Click here to access our free Smart Quote Tool and get a quote for over 65 health insurance policies in less than a minute! It could save your life. . .

Get An Insurance Quote

Are you an expat living abroad? Compare insurance prices instantly now.

*your information will not be shared with 3rd parties

Fill in your email to get quotes for:







team@expatinsurance.com+1 (800) 577-4308+1 435 647 6379

Smart Portal