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Drunk drivers could evade sanctions through legal injunctions

October 24, 2013

Lawyers and local legal authorities are preparing for a busy festive period, as many of those those caught driving under the influence are expected to try to bypass Jalisco’s tough new transport laws.

Drink driving is considered the primary cause of traffic accidents in the state, particularly in Guadalajara, with the holiday season in December and January always bringing a peak in the number of fatal incidents.

To combat drink driving in the city, Jalisco’s Transport Department will dispatch 200 female officers equipped with breathalyzers from November 15. Those caught will face strict new penalties under the state’s recently modified transport law, including fines of 9,714 to 12,952 pesos and mandatory detention for 12 to 36 hours, depending on the level of alcohol in their breath or blood.

Detainees will be held in the CURVA, a special facility for drunk drivers which even has a separate cell for transgender people to prevent them from being victimized by other prisoners. However, many people stopped for driving under the influence are expected to try to avoid being detained and paying the fines by filing legal injunctions.

The introduction of breathalyzers has proved an effective measure in Mexico City, where deaths linked to drink driving have fallen by 70 percent in the last decade. Yet around 30 percent of people stopped for drink driving in the capital now file injunctions to evade punishment, according to Spanish-language daily El Informador.

Motorists who are pulled over have the right to call a lawyer, who can submit an injunction which must be processed in the Ciudad Judicial within 24 hours. It typically takes around two hours for a judge to rule on the outcome of the case, after which the driver will either be free to leave or made to serve the mandatory 12 to 36 hours in the CURVA.

The injunctions are typically based on the legal argument that it is unconstitutional to force drivers to submit to breathalyzers if they have not committed any prior infraction. When breathalyzers were first introduced in Mexico City, lawyers would charge 6,000 pesos for injunctions, later dropping the fee to 3,000, El Informador reports.

To prepare for the anticipated influx of injunctions, Guadalajara’s Ciudad Judicial is assigning more staff to work in this area, as at present it only has nine workers to process injunctions.

In a bid to prevent corruption and the paying of bribes in lieu of fines and detention, seven civil organizations are preparing to send citizens to observe the officers operating the breathalyzers in Guadalajara. Responding to a recommendation by the Pan American Health Organization, the observers will play a watchdog role, verifying that the breathalyzers are properly applied.

There will be at least one observer where each breathalyzer is set up. The citizens will not be able to speak to the authorities or the motorists, but will record all observations to be presented in a later study.

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