Fewer Exemptions for China’s Drunk Drivers

BEIJING – Judicial organs should exercise caution when giving drunk drivers reprieve or exempting them from punishment in order to guarantee that the harsher statute introduced last year will deter people from driving drunk, a legalist said Sunday.

“Drunk driving is just a slight crime itself, and if the courts frequently suspend sentences or exempt drivers from punishment, the deterrence effect of the law on drunk driving will be impaired,” Professor Zhao Bingzhi, chairman of the Institution of Criminal Law under China Law Society, said at a workshop on the law amendment to drunk driving.

Zhao suggested that relevant departments should cooperate well to mete out supporting judicial interpretations and strict punishments to drunk drivers, so as to improve road safety.

China amended its Criminal Law on May 1 last year, stipulating that all drunk driving constitutes a criminal offense, regardless of whether road accidents or other serious consequences occur.

Under the new law, drivers caught drunk driving will have their licenses revoked and they could face a prison term of one to six months.

The law greatly contributed to the fall in the number of drunk driving cases in 2011. One year on, China has also witnessed an increasing drop in accidents caused by drunk driving.

Zhao and other law experts attending the workshop also noted some outstanding problems, such as a lack of unified criteria for imposing penalties on drunk driving and the surging rate of drunk driving incidents in China’s vast rural areas.

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