Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) yesterday approved draft amendments to the Criminal Code that could see drunk drivers deemed to have caused fatalities with murderous intent sentenced to death.
During the weekly Cabinet meeting, Su approved planned changes to the code, which are to be submitted to the Legislative Yuan for review.
A proposed addendum to Article 185, Clause 3 of the code says that people who have been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including those who have been granted probation, drive under the influence within five years of their conviction or receiving probation, resulting in a fatality, they shall be sentenced to life or a prison term of at least seven years.
Photo courtesy of the Taipei Police Departmen
People who drive under the influence within five years of a conviction or receiving probation, resulting in serious injury, would be given a prison term of five to 12 years, it says.
Those who are deemed to have caused fatalities with the intent to murder shall be tried under Article 22, meaning that they would be sentenced to 10 years in prison, a life sentence or the death penalty.
Amendments have also been proposed to the Criminal Code of the Armed Forces (陸海空軍刑法) to bring the regulations for military personnel in line with those for civilians.
Minister Without Portfolio Lo Ping-cheng (羅秉成) cited a case in Taipei last year when a man surnamed Kuo (郭) drove after consuming alcohol and reportedly ran a series of red lights, killing a female scooter rider and hitting two others.
The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office pressed a charge of murder, citing dashboard camera footage showing that Kuo did not step off the accelerator at any time during the accident and that his actions were no different from a “terrorist attack,” Lo said.
The draft amendments came after stiffened administrative fines for driving under the influence were passed by the legislature on Tuesday.
A coalition of civil groups yesterday opposed subjecting drunk drivers who have repeatedly caused serious or fatal accidents to the death penalty or life imprisonment, saying that the harsher punishments could be counterproductive.
“It is unclear whether a grave criminal law supported by little evidence and research would truly prevent drunk driving, or merely produce more social problems, such as overcrowded prisons and preventing offenders from re-entering society,” it said in a joint statement.
The coalition included Covenants Watch, the Judicial Reform Foundation, the Taipei Bar Association, the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, the Taiwan Forever Association and the Taiwan Innocent Project.
Given that drunk driving involves complex social and cultural issues, related legislation requires careful and comprehensive research, it said.
Furthermore, it is a court’s job to determine whether a drunk driver who has caused a fatal accident did so with the intent to kill, it said.
Requiring drunk drivers to be treated the same as people who intentionally kill would upset existing criminal theories and practices, it added.
It would also breach the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which stipulates that only those who had the intent to kill should be subject to the death penalty, it said.
A criminal law with proportional penalties backed by evidence would help establish Taiwan as a nation that complies with international human rights standards, it said.
Additional reporting by Ann Maxon
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