By Gloria James-Civetta

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Guidelines for drink-driving offences

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As laid down by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon wef 1st October 2013.

After surveying recent cases, the CJ said that the starting point for punishment of offenders should be the level of alcohol in an offender’s body. Any “aggravating or mitigating” factors should then be considered.

CJ handed down the new guidelines in the High Court on 1 October 2013, ie  punishment for driving with 64ug of alcohol in his blood – about 1.82 times the legal limit – to a 21-month ban and $2,500 fine.

In Singapore, drink-driving is governed by the Road Traffic Act, of which s. 67 sets out the offence. It stipulates that a person may be guilty of drink-driving if, while driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, he is found to be incapable of having proper control of his vehicle, or the proportion of alcohol in his breath or blood exceeds the prescribed limit.

The prescribed limit is 35 microgrammes (ug) per 100 millilitres (ml) of breath, or 80 milligrammes (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres (ml) of blood.

Hence, a person may be guilty of drink-driving if they are in control of their vehicle, but exceed the legal alcohol limit; and vice versa.

How will offenders be punished?

CJ Menon spelt out four bands of punishment for first-time offenders. Each contains a range of sentences, based on the level of alcohol in excess of the legal limit of 35 microgrammes (ug) per 100 millilitres of breath:

Between 35 – 54 ug: $1,000 to $2,000 in fines, and a driving ban of 12 to 18 months
Between 55 – 69 ug: $2,000 to $3,000 in fines, and a driving ban for 18 to 24 months
Between 70 – 89 ug: $3,000 to $4,000 in fines, and a driving ban for 24 to 36 months
At least 90 ug: $4,000 to $5,000 in fines, and a driving ban for 36 to 48 months or longer

As asserted by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, these benchmarks are merely neutral starting points for sentencing. Mitigating or aggravating factors; including the individual’s level of alcohol tolerance, the level of danger associated with the offender’s actions, the degree of harm actually caused and the cooperative nature of the offender; would then be taken into account to vary the sentence.

As an alternative to fines, a first-time offender may be sentenced to imprisonment for a maximum of 6 months. The mandatory driving ban would take effect from the date of his release from prison.

For repeat offenders under s. 67, a fine of between $3,000 and $10,000, or an imprisonment term of up to 12 months is imposed.

Under s. 67A of the Road Traffic Act, an enhanced penalty is to be imposed on offenders with at least 2 prior convictions under certain sections of the Act; including those concerning the disqualification or suspension of driving licences, reckless driving, speeding, causing death by reckless driving and drink driving.

Additionally, under s. 67A, if an offender with the aforementioned prior convictions caused serious injury or death to another person while drink-driving, the court may also sentence him to caning of up to 6 strokes.

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