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90% of drunk drivers are sentenced to probation and fines

90% of drunk drivers are sentenced to probation and fines

Posted May. 03, 2023 07:59,   

Updated May. 03, 2023 07:59


A driver who caused a traffic death while driving a cargo truck under the influence of alcohol was sentenced in January to three years in prison and five years of probation, with the driver’s repent of his wrongdoings and agreement with the bereaved family taken into account as a mitigating factor. Another driver who caused a fatal accident while driving 101 kilometers per hour in an area with a maximum posted speed limit of 50 kilometers per hour was sentenced to one year in prison and three years of probation. Was this lenient sentencing of the two drivers thanks to good luck bringing them to a generous judge?

The Dong-A Ilbo’s review of recent final judgments of alcohol-impaired driving that caused traffic deaths revealed that the offenders were sentenced to either probation or fines in 89 out of 100 cases. Considering that the sentencing guidelines for DUI are 10 months to two years and six months in prison for offenders responsible for traffic injuries and two years to five years in prison for offenders responsible for traffic deaths, it is a slap on the wrist. The maximum actual sentence in prison for a traffic death was only four years and five months. According to the analysis of these judgments, the offenders of traffic deaths were driving an average of 5.98 kilometers with a blood alcohol level (BAC) well above the legal limit for license revocation. However, their sentences were mitigated for various reasons, such as admission of the offense, minor injury of the victim, or agreement with the victim.

Unlike Korea where 90 percent of DUI offenders are exempt from serving the actual prison sentence, some states in the United States sentence DUI offenders to a maximum term of life sentence, and the U.K. sentences one year and six months to a maximum of 14 years in prison. The difference in sentence shows a stark difference in the perception towards DUI; in Korea, alcohol-impaired driving is considered an “accident by negligence,” whereas other advanced countries consider it “manslaughter by gross negligence.” The period of license revocation is five years in Korea, but the U.S., Germany, and Australia revoke the license permanently.

Low penalties are the reasons for the upward trend of DUI recidivism even when the number of traffic accidents is decreasing. More than half of DUI offenders are repeat offenders. The number of daily police reports of public drunkenness amounts to 2,700 cases, raising concerns that the police may not be able to timely respond to other criminal cases because of having to take care of drunk people reported day and night. Less than 10 percent of those who assault police officers are actually charged with a crime of obstructing the performance of official duties.

When an eight-year-old girl was killed by a DUI driver in a child protection zone, the police conducted a special DUI enforcement operation in daylight, where 167 drunk drivers were caught in six hours. On Monday, a car driven by a drunk driver in his 20s ran over a couple in their 40s, killing the wife and seriously injured the husband. As society becomes more lenient towards drunk drivers and public drunkenness by pardoning them from serving actual prison sentences, a tragic accident where people are run down by drunk drivers is also becoming a commonplace affair.