Recently, Taiwan made headlines for approving the death penalty for the most extreme case of drunk driving. This has led to a massive outcry. While various activists and rights group remonstrated against the move, many were of the opinion that the public is in favour of the death penalty.
Generally, the laws against impaired driving vary from one country to another, and it depends upon the extent of the crime. The penalty can range from imprisonment for 6 months and a hefty fine to long-term imprisonment.
Definitely, the laws are getting more stringent. Most states have lowered the blood alcohol concentration limit from .10 to .08. Drunk driving can result in drivers losing their license as well as some civil rights.
However, there are many people who are of the opinion that impaired driving deserves even stricter legislation. Drunk driving is abominable and imprisonment doesn’t do justice to the family of the victims who lost their dear ones.
However, is death penalty in case of drunk driving truly effective?
According to legal professor James Grant, it’s not the extent of punishment but the certainty of the punishment that can help in abating criminal behaviour. He said this in context to putting drunk driving in the same category as that of murder and rape.
In fact, with respect to the laws of Taiwan, many activists have raised their voice and issued statement: “There is a lack of evidence and research that seeking grave penalties and legislation would truly prevent drunk driving.”
According to campaigner Michael Hayworth, “The fallacy that crueller punishments deter crime doesn’t take into account that there are complex social and economic factors that drive crime rates.”
Most activists are of the opinion that death penalty is not a feasible solution to bring the crime rate down. Rather, the laws have to be made more stringent and forces need to be deployed judiciously.
James Grant says: “The only thing that would work is if they trained their officers to take the necessary samples in the required time period and to protect those samples – to get their officers out on the streets.”
In fact, death penalty as a punishment has always been contentious. There was a time when it was considered as primary punishment in the U.S. However, over the years, America has seen a decline in death penalties. While it’s justified in case of the most vicious crimes, but in the case of drunk-driving, it leaves a lot of room for contention. ‘Death sentence deprives people of the opportunity to reform,’ says Hayworth.
However, public opinion may not necessarily always resonate with that of activists.
For instance, although death penalty has been abolished in Bulgaria long time ago, people are still under the impression that drunk driving will invite death.
And interestingly, this notion has prevented people from impaired driving.
“Cases of drunk driving leading to death are rampant…drink drivers recklessly caused accidents that took lives and destroyed families to result in irreparable regret,” the Justice Ministry of Taiwan said in a statement.
Nevertheless, there are very few countries that employ death penalty – not only in the case of drunk driving but in general. However, most countries are working towards making the existing laws more rigid.
The fines and the extent of imprisonment are being increased – even leading to 7 years in jail.
Moreover, in certain countries, you are not allowed to reach out to an attorney general once convicted with impaired driving.
There are increasing cases of drunk-driving fiascos all over the world.
In such a scenario, the penalty should vary from place to place – states with higher instances of a drunk-driving need to have a different legal approach.