Drug and alcohol-related violence

As of 1 January 2017, if there are signs that an act of violence was committed under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the police can require the suspect to take an alcohol or drug test. If the test is positive, a higher penalty may be imposed.

Phased introduction of alcohol testing

The new rules will be implemented in phases. For the first six months, suspects will be tested for alcohol use in the regions of Alkmaar, Eindhoven and Veluwe-West only. As of 1 July 2017 the rules will be implemented nationally and drug testing will be carried out too.

Higher penalties for drug and alcohol-related violence

A new law on drug and alcohol-related violence entered into force on 1 January 2017. The Violent Offenders (Alcohol and Drug Testing) Act (Wet middelenonderzoek bij geweldplegers) (in Dutch) allows the police to require people suspected of violent offences to take drug and alcohol tests. If a suspect tests positive for alcohol or drugs, the Public Prosecution Service can demand a higher penalty. This may be a higher fine or a longer custodial sentence or community service order. It may also be a suspended sentence with special conditions attached, such as:

  • a ban on alcohol consumption
  • a ban on access to certain locations (a restraining order or exclusion order)
  • an attendance order
  • training (behavioural intervention) to help prevent the violent offender from abusing alcohol or drugs again.

Under the new law, drug and alcohol consumption will be verified objectively so there can be no debate in court about whether the perpetrator was under the influence.

Drug and alcohol testing not standard practice

The new law allows the police to require suspects of violent offences to take alcohol and drug tests, but only when there are signs that the act was committed under the influence of alcohol or drugs. So testing is not standard practice in every instance of violent crime.

Administering alcohol and drugs tests

If the police have reason to believe a suspect was acting under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they will perform a breath analysis for alcohol or a saliva test for drugs. Officers may also examine a suspect’s appearance for signs of alcohol or drug use.

If the result of the first test is positive, the police will perform a follow-up test and record the result in the official report.

The follow-up test for alcohol consumption consists of a breath analysis or, in some cases, a blood test. When drug use is suspected, or both drug and alcohol use, this follow-up test will always be a blood test.

Consequences of drug and alcohol-related violence

Alcohol and drugs can lower people’s inhibitions against committing violence. Violence leads to serious injury more often when drugs or alcohol are involved. The cost to society is also significant. The additional costs associated with healthcare, police and judicial services, traffic accidents, property damage and lost productivity exceed € 3 billion a year in the Netherlands.