Fri, Dec 01, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Refusal to cooperate with breath test to be punished

CHANGING THE EQUATION:A proposed amendment would impose higher fines for refusal to cooperate with Breathalyzer tests than for driving under the influence

By Cheng Hung-ta and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The legislature’s Transportation Committee yesterday completed the second round of negotiations on a draft amendment to the Road Traffic Management and Penalty Act (道路交通管理處罰條例) that would allow harsher penalties to be imposed on people convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) and drivers who refuse to take Breathalyzer tests.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Cheng Pao-ching (鄭寶清), who convened yesterday’s committee, said that the ruling and opposition parties have reached a consensus.

If all goes well, the proposed amendment could pass the second and third readings and be enacted by the end of the current legislative session, Cheng said.

The meeting was attended by lawmakers as well as representatives of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, the Ministry of Justice and other agencies.

Under the draft amendment, if drivers drive past areas where police have set up checkpoint signs and refuse to pull over or take the Breathalyzer test, they can be fined NT$180,000 for a first offense NT$360,000 for a second offense and NT$540,000 for the third offense.

The penalties for refusing to cooperate would be harsher than for a first indictment on DUI charges, for which the minimum fine would be raised from NT$15,000 to NT$30,000.

However, the NT$90,000 maximum fine is to remain unchanged.

On Nov. 16, the Taipei High Administrative Court ruled in favor of a man who was fined NT$90,000 after he locked himself inside his car in an apparent attempt to avoid a Breathalyzer test.

The purpose of the amendment is to make refusing to take a Breathalyzer test costlier than drunk driving, DPP Legislator Cheng Yun-peng (鄭運鵬) said, adding that drivers who refuse to take the test would not automatically be deemed guilty of drinking and driving.

The draft amendment also stipulates that drivers who are convicted for drunk driving or who refuse to take the tests more than three times within a five-year period would be required to use a special, possibly fluorescent, license plate.

Non-compliers would incur a fine of NT$6,000 to NT$12,000 and their vehicles would be impounded on the spot, under the proposed amendment, which stipulates that passengers of drunk drivers could also be fined NT$6,000 to NT$12,000.

Passengers who can provide evidence that they fulfilled their responsibility to discourage the driver from driving while intoxicated would be exempted, as well as passengers younger than 18 or older than 70, the mentally disabled, people with intellectual deficits and passengers on public transportation.

Vehicle owners who are aware of a driver’s drinking or other violations, but do not stop the driver, can already be fined NT$6,000 to NT$12,000 and have their licenses suspended for three months.

Cheng Pao-ching said the proposed amendment is in the spirit of “zero-tolerance” policy.

Everyone is entitled to human rights, but human rights cannot be protected at the cost of other people’s safety, he added.

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