Taiwan mulls tougher laws for repeat drunk drivers

As part of its campaign to decrease drunken driving, the government is now considering law revisions to detain repeat offenders for a few days immediately after they are caught, a report said yesterday.

The Justice Ministry has suggested that the Law of Maintaining Social Order be revised to legalize the immediate detention of repeat offenders for up to three days, regardless of whether their drunken driving has caused an accident.

The revision would be formally proposed by the interior ministry, which is in charge of enforcing the Law of Maintaining Social Order.

The proposal of the revision is one of the government's moves to curb drunken driving, which causes several hundred deaths each year.

The justice ministry last month already came up with a draft to revise the anti-drunken driving law, seeking to raise the years of imprisonment for offenders.

Driving under the influence (DUI) offenders who cause deaths, under the proposal, could be jailed for three to 10 years (up from the current one to seven years) without the possibility of a suspended sentence.

Offenders who do not cause an accident could be jailed for two months to two years.

Justice Minister Tseng Yung-fu said the government has reached an internal consensus to come down hard on drunken drivers.

But as the courts seldom give more than six months to DUI offenders who do not cause accidents, the Justice Ministry's proposed revisions may not be an effective deterrent, Tseng said.

The Criminal Code allows imprisonments under six months to be converted into a fine, which means that drunken drivers would still be able to walk free by paying a fine without having to go to jail.

The three-day detention for repeat offenders is meant to be a severe warning for drunken drivers that they will have to go jail - at least for a short period of time - even before they are formally tried in court.

One local report said many police officers agree that drunken drivers must be heavily punished, but have expressed concern over the police's lack of facilities to carry out the three-day detention.

Major crackdowns on drunken driving usually round up hundreds of offenders, and some police stations may not have enough space to lock them all up for three days, the paper cited some officers as saying.

But some say offenders should be locked up for more than three days.

In China, drunken drivers are jailed for 15 days; they are also given a fine and a six-month driver's license suspension, the paper said.

During the previous weekend, police conducted a massive crackdown on drunken driving in major cities and counties, catching a few thousand offenders.

Become a fan on Facebook