Thu, Feb 28, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Repeat DUIs to get stiffer punishments

SEVERITY NEEDED:In drafting the amendments, the Ministry of Justice referred to laws in California, which treats repeat DUIs resulting in death as second-degree murder

By Wu Cheng-feng, Chang Wen-chuan and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Reporters take photographs at a news briefing in Taipei yesterday as Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang, right, explains proposed amendments that would impose heavier penalties on drunk drivers who cause deaths or injuries.

Photo: Peter Lo, Taipei Times

Repeat driving under the influence (DUI) offenders who have caused the death of someone could face prolonged jail time, life imprisonment or even the death penalty, under draft amendments to the Criminal Code released yesterday by the Ministry of Justice showed.

In the draft amendments, repeat DUI offenses resulting in death could be punishable by 10 years in prison, a life sentence or death, while repeat offenses resulting in severe injury could be punishable by five to 12 years in prison, Department of Prosecutorial Affairs Director Wang Chun-li (王俊力) said.

The ministry referred to California state law in drafting the amendments, he said, adding that California treats repeat DUI offenses resulting in the death of others as second-degree murder.

Under current regulations, DUI offenders who cause the death of someone can be sentenced to three to 10 years in prison, while DUI offenders resulting in severe injury can be sentenced to one to seven years, he said.

The proposed amendments would also increase the prison terms for causing death and severe injury to five to 12 years and three to 10 years respectively, he said.

The amendments also include a “confiscation clause,” by which vehicles involved in DUI incidents could be confiscated regardless of who the owner is, Wang said.

Generally, judges rule to confiscate a vehicle involved in a DUI incident unless doing so would be too harsh or lack significance in relation to the Code, such as when a vehicle is of low value or needed to help the offender make a living, he said.

Asked whether the law would require ignition interlocks to be installed on vehicles, Wang said that in discussing the matter with the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, it was decided that the use of ignition interlocks would be regulated by planned amendments to the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act (道路交通管理處罰條例), which the Ministry of Transportation and Communications would be responsible for.

However, in criminal cases, requiring an ignition interlock on a DUI offender’s vehicle could be a condition used by prosecutors or judges for a deferred prosecution or sentence, Wang said.

Some repeat DUI offenders suffer from alcohol addiction, he said, adding that those who are in jail must attend rehabilitation programs or group therapy, while the justice ministry would work with the Ministry of Health and Welfare to provide resources for those not incarcerated.

Although academics have raised doubts about the death penalty, it is necessary, from the perspective of protecting the public, to severely punish DUI offenses and curb the trend, Minister of Justice Tsai Ching-hsiang (蔡清祥) said.

Drunk driving has destroyed many families and there is a need to severely punish it, he added.

The amendments were to be delivered to the Executive Yuan yesterday at the earliest, Tsai said.

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