KUALA LUMPUR: Chinese New Year revellers be warned.
Those caught driving under the influence of alcohol should not expect a lenient punishment like one day in jail and a fine should they plead guilty before a magistrate.
Lawyer S Jayananda Rao said going by the current sentencing trend, offenders may get a jail term of between three and seven days.
“Those who had intended to plead guilty are now claiming trial as they do not want to go to jail,” said Jayananda, who has handled several cases of this nature over the past few months.
He said an offender would usually remain in court until office hours if the court imposed a one-day jail term.
“If it is more than one day, the offender will be sent to prison,” he said, advising those who consume big amounts of alcohol during the forthcoming festive season to get someone to drive them home.
“Take a e-hailing service or arrange for someone to send you home,” he told FMT.
Stiffer penalties against those who drive under the influence of alcohol came into force on Oct 23, 2020 following amendments to Section 45A of the Road Transport Act.
Those convicted for the first time may be fined between RM10,000 and RM30,000, jailed up to two years and disqualified from driving for two years.
Previously, it was a fine of between RM1,000 and RM6,000, a jail sentence of up to one year and a driving ban for a maximum of 12 months.
Under the amendments, those whose alcohol level is 50mg per 100ml (milliliter) of blood while driving under the influence of alcohol have run afoul of the law.
Previously, it was 80mg per 100ml of blood.
Jayananda said he had learnt from lawyers in other towns in the Klang Valley that offenders had been sent to jail for up to two or three weeks.
“The punishment depends on the alcohol level in the bloodstream and other mitigating factors,” he said, adding that there was also a misconception that offenders would be punished only for drink driving.
“You can still be under the influence of alcohol based on the readings though not drunk,” he said.
Suspects will be asked to take a breathalyser test, usually at police roadblocks.
If the alcohol limit in the blood stream goes beyond the prescribed limit, police will arrest the suspect and later send him or her for a blood test at a government hospital.
The suspect will be given a police bail pending the outcome of the result and instructed to go to court to be prosecuted.
Jayananda believed magistrates were imposing higher jail terms to create awareness on the amendments.
“If the person under the influence of alcohol has caused death or injury to another person, the repercussions are devastating,” he said.
He said Section 45A was a social legislation to protect the public and their safety was of paramount importance.
“Sentencing is at the discretion of the magistrate but in considering an appropriate punishment, the court will take into account public interest,” he said.