Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chile: Santiago Imposes Minimum One Year in Prison for DUI Convictions

According to The Latin American TribuneChilean President Michelle Bachelet signed into law on Monday (September 15) a measure mandating at least one year in prison for anyone convicted of DUI in an accident that resulted in death or serious injury.

“We want this law to show that Chile does not tolerate irresponsible behavior that has such tragic consequences for other people,” Bachelet said during a ceremony at the presidential palace.

The new law is known in Chile as “Emilia’s law,” the name of a 9-month-old girl who was killed in January 2013 in an accident caused by a drunken driver. The driver, who attempted to escape, was prosecuted but avoided going to jail, which led Emilia’s parents to undertake a crusade to get Congress to stiffen sentences in such cases.

Until now, the penalty for causing a serious accident while DUI was a driver’s license suspension of up to five years and, at the very worst, for life.

COMMENT: As a successful, recovering alcoholic since 1986, I applaud Chile's new legislation.

Effective Monday, offenders must serve at least a year in prison before being eligible for such benefits as freedom on probation, meaning that no DUI perpetrator will escape doing time behind bars.

The new legislation also defines two new crimes: Professional drivers caught drinking alcohol or who repeat that infraction will be convicted.

Also, those who flee the scene of an accident or refuse to take a breathalyzer test will also be penalized.

Bachelet said that consuming alcohol is a factor in at least 20% of fatal traffic accidents.

In 2013, there were 148 deaths in traffic accidents caused by motorists driving under the influence of alcohol.