Draft law proposing manslaughter charge, increased jail time & fines for drunk drivers

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Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall

– bar owners who sell to intoxicated drivers to also feel the heat

Draft amendments to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act, as well as the Intoxicating Liquor Licensing (Amendment) Bill, were approved by the Cabinet on Thursday with a view to toughening up on the penalties for drunk drivers – and the bars that serve them – face.

The Attorney General Chambers released the draft laws on Saturday. According to a statement from Attorney General Anil Nandlall, the Bills are being proposed in response to a large number of motor vehicular accidents, including fatal ones, which can be traced to drunken driving.

“The Government of Guyana has made a decision to take a series of measures to confront this serious problem. Legislative reform is one of those measures. In this regard, the Government is proposing to strengthen and expand existing legislation and impose more punitive measures,” Nandlall said.

According to the Attorney General, he will be leading off the Government’s consultations with important national stakeholders on the Bills, as well as interested members of the public. Submissions on the Bills were also invited within 21 days.

The draft legislation for Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act seeks to amend the Principal Act and put in place a new Section, 35A. This new Section makes causing the death of someone through drunk driving, a case of vehicular manslaughter.

“Any person who causes the death of another person by the driving of a motor vehicle on the road or other public place while under the influence of drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the vehicle shall be guilty of motor manslaughter and shall be liable on conviction on indictment to a term of imprisonment of not less than ten years,” the draft Bill states.

Ban

The Bill also puts a three-year ban on persons convicted under it, from obtaining or holding a driver’s licence after their release from prison. A second conviction of a similar offence, the Bill states, will lead to the person being permanently disqualified. During the court process, the suspect will also be required to surrender their licence – failure of which will result in a fine of $100,000 or imprisonment for three months.

The draft Bill also amends Section 39A of the Principal Act – the penalty for driving over the alcohol limit – replacing the $7500 fine with $200,000 and the sentence of 12 months with 24 months.

Meanwhile, it has also been proposed that the penalty for driving under the influence and losing control of your vehicle be increased from its current $30,000 to $60,000 fine/imprisonment for 12 months, to $200,000 for first-time offenders and $300,000 for second time offenders.

Section 39G also amends the Principal Act’s description of the prescribed alcohol limit. As a result of this amendment, prescribed limit now means breath alcohol concentration of 35 micrograms of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath or blood alcohol concentration means 80 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood.

Bar owners

The second Bill seeks to amend the Intoxicating Liquor Licencing Act, Cap 82:21, slapping liquor establishments with heavy fines for selling alcohol to persons who are already intoxicated and then drink and drive.

It amends Sections 2, 54 and 56 of the Principal Act. In Section 2, it clarifies the definition of a “drunken person”. Meanwhile, Section 54’s amendment mandates that bar owners not sell alcohol to persons who are likely to drive, prohibit drunken patrons from driving or, in cases where they know one of their patrons is about to drive, inform the nearest Police station.

Additionally, bars will be required to post signs warning against drinking and driving, on their premises, as well as making regular announcements on the premises against persons drinking and driving. Meanwhile, Section 56’s amendment to the Principal Act increases fines for liquor owners breaching the provision, from $3000 to $100,000.