Automatic One-Month Jail Term for Drunk Driving in Pattaya?

We noted a couple of days ago that an increased crackdown on drunk driving and more DUI checkpoints must be expected in Pattaya (and nationwide) over the New Year’s holiday period.
That’s the same procedure as every year.
But what exactly are the fines and penalties if you can’t bribe the Boys in Brown (which has become significantly harder over the last years) and keep yourself out of serious legal trouble?
Pratheep ‘Peter’ Malhotra, the long-time managing director of local newspaper Pattaya Mail, has today posted the following image on his Facebook page, adding the clear-cut English translation of the Thai caption:

YOU WILL GO STRAIGHT TO JAIL FOR DRUNK DRIVING

Crackdown on drunk driving

Malhotra argues in his post that an alleged “new law” regarding drunk driving has taken effect “today” (that’s Christmas Day.) According to the new “law”, Malhotra explains, if you get caught with a blood alcohol content of 0.5 or more (which is the legal limit for motorists in Thailand) you will be fined 10,000 Baht and “go straight to JAIL for ONE MONTH.”

No appeals, No suspended sentence and No community work.
Your vehicles will be impounded.

This is obviously plain talking – an automatic one-month jail sentence plus a fine of 10,000 Baht.
The only detail that surprises us is that exactly half a year ago today, we’ve reported that local German-language newspaper Der Farang already warned of a renewed crackdown on drunk driving in Pattaya – and significantly stricter penalties:

According to the new alleged rules (…) if a driver is caught with a blood alcohol content of 0.5 or more he/she will be fined 10,000 Baht (…) and will automatically receive a jail sentence of one month.

The announcement came less than two months after prime minister and junta leader Prayuth Chan-o-cha had ordered an all-out crackdown on drunk driving.

So has the “law” now actually changed or not?
We must admit that we’re a bit confused now whether these alleged “new rules” at that time, i.e. an automatic one-month jail term and fine of 10,000 Baht for drunk drivers, have become statutory and/or “taken effect” only now (so our report at that time was premature), or what exactly the provision of the law is?
In the absence of any related reports in the national media as yet, we assume that the letter of the law itself hasn’t actually been amended recently but it’s so vaguely worded by nature that the penalties as outlined above are fully within the scope of the law in a more “conservative” interpretation, but may not always or necessarily apply. As we understand it, an automatic jail term and a fine of 10,000 Baht may then simply describe the current course of action over the upcoming New Year’s holiday period and the situation might again “relax” after that.
Last but not least, in view of jam-packed prison cells, the jail term part in particular might be but a deterrent and threat in the first place, and it remains to be seen over the next 10 days how strictly these alleged penalties will be applied in Pattaya?
Anyway, in the face of an increased number of DUI checkpoints not just in Pattaya but nationwide that must be expected over the New Year’s holiday period, you’re advised to leave your motorcycle or car at home when you plan to hit the town and get pissed. It’s not just that you face a heavy fine and a one-month extended holiday in a Thai prison – the life of others is just as much at risk as your own life.

UPDATE – In a related thread, Thaivisa.com make no mention either of a “new” or somehow amended law but note that the military junta on Thursday simply “launched its annual nationwide drink driving crackdown.”
According to local Thai media, Pattaya in particular was singled out as

one of the areas in Thailand with the highest number of drink driving related accidents, with police and military ordered to strictly enforce a number of harsh new penalties for those caught drink driving.

As we already warned a few days ago, motorists in Pattaya must “expect to see increased patrols and roadblocks” throughout the Pattaya area over the New Year’s holiday period. The army chief in person has reportedly

ordered soldiers to man checkpoints at all major roads throughout Pattaya during the holiday period and warned drivers they can expect to face serious consequences if they are caught drunk behind the wheel.

Other than Peter Malhotra in his Facebook post, however, Thaivisa.com make no mention either of a mandatory one-month jail term for drunk drivers but describe the penalties in somewhat broader terms:

  • Fines of up to 20,000 Baht
  • Vehicle and driving license seized
  • Military detention and jail for those caught drunk behind the wheel

UPDATE IIPattaya One News pretty much confirm the above reports, however point out that “prison terms of up to 30 days” and “fines of up to 20,000 Baht” aren’t compulsory but “can be imposed” only, i.e. offenders may also get away without an automatic jail sentence. Otherwise the article reconfirms that

New Year checkpoints began in Pattaya on 25th December and will continue through until 1st January. Police and police volunteers will be looking to pull over drivers (…) who decide to take control of their vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol.

While we’re not sure how the following relates to foreign drivers and holders of international driving licenses, it might be important to point out that

drivers who have had their licenses for over five years are allowed to have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.05% when behind the wheel, while newer drivers are only allowed to have a 0.02% BAC level.

UPDATE III – On Wednesday, December 30, the chief of Banglamung district (of which Pattaya city is a part) announced the launch of an unknown number of “highway new year checkpoints” in and around Pattaya that will run until January 4 – the end of the so-called seven dangerous days. One of the checkpoints will reportedly be located in front of the Banglamung police station on Sukhumvit Road in North Pattaya.
There’s no mention of automatic jail terms for drivers caught intoxicated behind the wheel. Pattaya One report, however, that apart from facing prosecution,

those caught will have their vehicles seized until 5th January. On 29th December, the first day of the New Year checkpoints, 15 cars, 3 motorbikes and 1 truck were seized from drivers found to be drunk-driving.

According to The Nation, there’s a total of “2,165 checkpoints nationwide, manned by 64,432 officials” that have been set up specifically for the new year holiday period running from December 29 until January 4.

UPDATE (December 31) – An article published in the Bangkok Post clarifies the current legal situation a bit:

New rules invoked under Section 44 of the interim constitution aimed at illegal street racing and drink-driving took effect on Wednesday, allowing police to detain offenders between seven and 15 days. (…)
Under the new rules, police can confiscate the offenders’ vehicles for at least a week and their driving licences for up to 30 days.
The new measures signed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha were published in the Royal Gazette on Wednesday [December 30] and took effect immediately.

The Nation further explains that police could only detain offenders for a “behaviour adjustment programme for at least seven days and up to 15 days,” indicating this would “not be considered a detention under the Criminal Code.” Only if there are “sound reasons for prosecution, the officers can hand the motorists over to the police” to take further legal action.
So there is obviously no automatic one-month jail term for drivers caught intoxicated behind the wheel, just the option for police to detain offenders for up to 15 days. On the other hand, we must add, it seems like authorities do not strictly apply this legal option as we haven’t read any reports yet that offenders were actually detained.

3 Responses to Automatic One-Month Jail Term for Drunk Driving in Pattaya?

  1. […] post Automatic One-Month Jail Term for Drunk Driving in Pattaya? appeared first on […]

  2. I would like to know what the charges were for the drunk driver who crashed into our taxi from Khoa Lak to Phuket on Tuesday 19th Jan 2017 at 8:40pm whilst we were traveling to the airport to return to the UK from our honeymoon. We were taken to hospital by ambulance though were not spoken to by the police do have no idea what course of action will be taken against this terrible person who almost killed us.

    • Have police spoken to you by now? If not tell the doctors or someone at hospital to call the police a.s.a.p. so they can take whatever action is required or you file charges against that drunk driver. Get in touch with the British embassy anyway too. All the best!

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