Refuse breath test - go to jail

Refuse breath test - go to jail

Jail and a heavy fine are now in the headlights of any driver who refuses a police directive to take a breath test -- they will be assumed drunk and can be arrested and charged under the drink-driving law that has just been amended.

Under the new law, which took effect on Wednesday, police can stop a car under special circumstances or when there is evidence the driver might be drunk.

They may ask the driver to enter a special lane designated by traffic cones. They can then demand the driver open a window so that they can do a preliminary test inside the car for signs of alcohol or ask the driver to take a breathalyser test.

Police can also order the driver to step out of the vehicle to complete a walk-and-turn test.

If the driver refuses to take such tests, police can assume he or she has violated Section 43 (2) of the Traffic Act which prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.

As a result, he can be detained as necessary and/or charged with driving under the influence.

The new measure was published in the Royal Gazette on Tuesday and took effect on Dec 31, when a higher number of road accidents related to alcohol consumption is expected. 

The Traffic Control and Command Centre's Facebook page also posted a warning about the new law, saying the penalty for refusing to take the test is a jail term of up to one year and a fine of 10,000 to 20,000 baht or both. The offender may prove his innocence in court.

Under the old law, a driver who refused to take a test would be fined up to 1,000 baht. If he agrees to take the test and is found drunk, the penalty is a jail term of up to one year and a fine from 5,000 to 20,000 baht.

According to the Facebook page, the law was amended because many drunk motorists refused to take breathalyser tests and the drunk-driving offence carried a weak penalty. The new regulation is one of many preventive measures, and cooperation from the public was needed to curb road accidents.

However, Pol Lt Col Sansern Kree-aree, of Traffic Police Division’s general staff unit, said police could not just charge anyone with drunk driving unless they followed a laid-down procedure first.

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