Au was found sleeping off a few drinks in his stationary car parked at Fourth Avenue in the wee hours of Dec 18, 2009. A friend had driven his vehicle there, one of two witnesses who had given police statements attesting to the fact he did not drive the vehicle on that particular occasion. Still, Au was jailed for two weeks, fined $4,000 and banned from driving. Judge of Appeal V K Rajah ended the nightmare by ruling that catching forty winks at the wheel of a stationary vehicle while over the alcohol limit does not constitute an offence. But prosecutors at the Attorney General's Chambers are "studying the High Court decision" and "considering the next course of action". Why are the prosecutors so determined in persecuting? Gleaning available information on the Internet, it seems they still have a few cards to play.
What is the Drink Drive Offence in question?
It is an offence for a person to be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place with excess alcohol in his breath or in blood or urine as evidenced by a certificate of analysis or statement.
What is the legal definition of being in charge?
There is no legal definition for the term "in charge". Generally, a Defendant is "in charge" if he was the owner or in possession of the vehicle or had recently driven it. He is not in charge if it is being driven by another person or is "a great distance" from the vehicle.
What happens if a person is sitting in the vehicle or "otherwise involved with it"?
In charge can include attempting to gain entry to the vehicle and failing, having keys to the vehicle, having intention to take control of the vehicle or even "being near the vehicle".
What if I was in my car listening to music and had no intention of driving?
There is no need for the prosecution to prove that a person was likely to drive whilst unfit or over the limit. It is for the Defendant to prove that there is no prospect of using the vehicle.
What if I fell asleep in the car or I was sitting in the back?
It depends on the circumstances leading up to it. If somebody else had driven the vehicle, and has merely got out and left you in it, and you were not aware of this, you are not in charge. If, however, you had, by your own means got into the car you would have been in charge and remain in charge.
Can I be prosecuted if I am sitting in the passenger seat?
Yes. If the police believe that you were driving at some point, but when they stopped the vehicle, you were no longer driving, it is still possible to prosecute or if the police are able to show that there was a likelihood of you driving the vehicle. You do not have to be sitting in the driver's seat to be "in charge".
In 2002, NSman Chong was charged with "being in possession of a car while under the influence of alcohol" for drinking a beer in his father's parked car, and dozed off. Chan Sek Cheong ruled that the conviction was a weak antecedent to justify a jail term for a second case of DUI in 2009, adding that if Chong's story raised "a question of reasonable doubt, then he ought to be entitled to that doubt".
Surely these horror stories should be enough to persuade you to give up the car (that plus the rip-off COE) and start taking the trains. Except that alternative mode of transport keeps breaking down, derailing the travel plans of at least 26,000 on the North East Line yesterday.