(Dec. 11, 2013) A new law that cracks down on drunk driving came into force in Belarus on October 24, 2013 (Law of the Republic of Belarus of July 12, 2013, No. 60-Z on Amendments to Certain Laws of the Republic of Belarus on Tightening Sanctions for Driving in a State of Intoxication [in Russian] [hereinafter the Law], NATIONAL LEGAL INTERNET PORTAL OF BELARUS [official publication], No. 2/2058 (July 23, 2013)).
Under this Law, which consists mainly of amendments to the Belarusian Criminal Code, the state will seize and sell any vehicle driven by a person found to be in a state of alcohol or drug intoxication. (Id. art. 1.) The Law will apply when a driver commits this offense twice within a year. Confiscation will take place regardless of the ownership of the vehicle; even if an offender does not own the vehicle he or she was driving, or if it belongs to a disabled person or is a pledged asset, it may be seized through a court ruling. Only stolen cars will be exempt from confiscation. (Id.)
According to the Law, the money received from the sale of the confiscated vehicles will go either to the state treasury or to individuals affected by accidents caused by drunk drivers. If the offender wishes to keep the car, he or she must re-purchase it. (Belarus Begins Confiscating and Selling Vehicles of Drunk Drivers, Russia Looks to Follow, RT (Nov. 16, 2013).)
The Law also toughens the penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, for offering a vehicle to a driver who is in a state of intoxication, and for refusal to take a breathalyzer test after being stopped by the police on suspicion of drunk driving. The Law increases the maximum fine for first-time offenders to about US$1,400. Prison terms for intoxicated drivers found guilty of causing the death of two or more persons in road accidents will increase from three years to ten. (Law, art. 2.)
A local court in Belarus has already issued the first decision on the basis of the new Law, ordering the confiscation of the car used by a 28-year-old driver found to be driving while intoxicated and sentencing the culprit to one and a half years of community service. It was the offender’s second drunk driving offense in two months. While the car did not belong to the driver, the court stated that in this case “the ownership of the vehicle is of no legal relevance.” (Belarus Begins Confiscating and Selling Vehicles of Drunk Drivers, Russia Looks to Follow, supra.)
Russia may also start confiscating the vehicles of drunk drivers.Legislation proposing to confiscate the vehicles of drivers found to be under the influence of alcohol who are driving without a license or of those who provide a vehicle to a person in a state of alcohol intoxication has recently been submitted to the Russian State Duma (the country’s parliament). The authors of the proposed legislation say it will both tighten the liability for such violations and create obstacles for future violations. (Russia Could Start Confiscating Vehicles from Drunk Drivers, INTERFAX (Nov. 15, 2013).)
Prepared by Svitlana Vodyanyk, Contract Foreign Law Specialist, under the supervision of Peter Roudik, Director of Legal Research