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Russia: New Administrative Rules on Drunk Driving Adopted, Criminal Penalties Contemplated

(Oct. 23, 2013) The Russian State Duma (the lower house of the legislature) recently passed new legislation that will up penalties for driving in a state of intoxication induced by alcohol or drugs. The motivation for the legislative action was the increase in the number of deaths caused by drunk drivers. (Russia’s Duma Passes Tough Law on Drunk-Driving, RUSSIA TODAY (Mar. 13, 2013).)

As of September 1, 2013, driving while intoxicated will be punishable with an administrative fine of between RUB30,000-50,000 (about US$920-1,600) or suspension of the driver’s license for up to three years. (Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation (2001) [in Russian], art. 12.8, CONSULTANT PLUS.)

Also, Russian legislators amended the Russian Code of Administrative Offenses to allow for the presence of some alcoholic content in a driver’s blood that results from taking certain medicines and to allow for instrument error. In July 2013, the State Duma had permitted an alcohol level of 0.16 per mil in a vehicle driver’s blood, in order to avoid unfair punishment of such drivers. (Lyudmila Alexandrova, Russian Drivers to Be Allowed to Have Slight Alcohol Content in Blood, ITAR-TASS NEWS AGENCY (June 26, 2013).) This legal provision came into legal force on September 1, 2013.

Proposed Amendments to Criminal Code

Members of the State Duma are also drafting amendments to Russia’s Criminal Code to make driving in a state of intoxication a criminal offense, with tougher penalties to be imposed on intoxicated drivers. Under the amendments, drivers will be subject to criminal liability if found driving while intoxicated for the second time within a one-year period. Criminal penalties for drunk driving will include compulsory community work or various forms of limitations on the offender’s personal freedom. (Criminal Liability for Drunk Driving Will Be Introduced by End of Year [in Russian], GAZETA.RU (Sept. 23, 2013).)

Although this legislation is still under consideration by the legislators, on October 8, 2013, the State Duma already passed an amendment to the Criminal Code establishing that being drunk or under the influence of other intoxicating substances while committing a crime is an aggravating circumstance, and a judge may consider imposing a stricter punishment in such cases. (Federal Law of the Russian Federation on Amending Article 63 of the Russian Criminal Code [in Russian], State Duma website (Oct. 8, 2013).)

Restoration of Sobering-Up Stations Proposed

Another legislative measure being considered by the State Duma is the restoration of “sobering-up stations” (vytrezviteli) that had existed in the former Soviet Union. Those medical facilities for highly intoxicated people were controlled by the Soviet police, who removed people in a state of alcoholic intoxication from public places and brought them to these stations for sobering up. After the intoxicated individuals became sober, they had to pay a fine for offending public morals and were allowed to leave. In some cases, they were administratively detained for a period of up to 15 days. (Vladimir Kremlev, Of Russian Origin: Vytrezvitel, RUSSIAPEDIA (last visited Oct. 22, 2013).)

Sobering-up stations were abolished in 2010, and persons in a state of intoxication could receive medical help only in medical institutions that were part of the health care system. (Elena Malai, United Russia Proposes to Restore Paid Sobering-Up Stations [in Russian], IZVESTIA (June 17, 2013).) Now, however, Russian legislators are proposing that the system of sobering-up stations be restored and that police officers be given the authority to deliver persons who are publicly intoxicated to such stations. (State Duma Proposes to Allow Police to Deliver Drunks to Sobering-Up Stations [in Russian], ITAR-TASS (Sept. 20, 2013).)

Prepared by Svitlana Vodyanyk, Foreign Law Consultant, under the supervision of Peter Roudik, Director of Legal Research.