Did you know that sleeping in the driver’s seat intoxicated is an offence?

By Cheryl Tay

Drunk driving even in a stationary vehicle...

 

We all know that driving a vehicle while being intoxicated is a terrible offence, to a point where you could go to jail. If you get stopped by the police and fail the breath analyser test, you’re in a lot of trouble.

But some might not be aware that if you are found intoxicated in the driver’s seat of a stationary car, THAT is a similar offence as drink driving.

Mr Michael Tan (not his real name) left the pub with a little too much to drink one night and after getting to his car, he realised that he was not in the right state to drive so he got into the driver’s seat and fell asleep. His car was parked in a public car park.

He was then woken up by a police officer and after failing the breath analyser test, he was slapped with a heavy penalty – suspension of his driving licence (all classes) for 30 months and a $4,500 fine.

The legal alcohol limit in Singapore is 35mg of alcohol in 100ml of breath, or 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood.

Thing is, if Michael was sleeping in the passenger seat or in the back seats, he would not have suffered this severe penalty. For example, if he was sleeping on the kerb beside his car, he would not have been punished.

The law states that any person being in charge of a motor vehicle, which is on a road or at a public place but not driving the vehicle, found under the influence of drinks or drugs to the extent of being incapable to control the vehicle is deemed guilty – unless it could be proven that there was no likelihood of the driving of the vehicle.

If you are caught drink driving, it is a straightforward offence. One might argue that sleeping at the wheel with the engine off is not the same as being caught driving while intoxicated. But in both situations, there is a risk to other users of the road as the driver is not fully in control of his actions under the influence of alcohol. For example, being at the wheel means he might get up in his drunken stupor and just start driving.

The penalty for being caught drink driving is heavier than being caught at the wheel intoxicated and sleeping, because the risk has actualised in the former. For the latter, the risk has either passed or may only actualise in the future, hence a lighter sentence. (You may refer below for the penalties.)

The best solution to this? Simply avoid your vehicle entirely if you are drinking. That way, the risk of driving your vehicle or falling asleep in your vehicle is eliminated.

 

Driving while under influence of drink or drugs

67.—(1)  Any person who, when driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place —

(a)         is unfit to drive in that he is under the influence of drink or of a drug or an intoxicating substance to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of such vehicle; or

(b)         has so much alcohol in his body that the proportion of it in his breath or blood exceeds the prescribed limit,

shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $5,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months and, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine of not less than $3,000 and not more than $10,000 and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months.

(2)  A person convicted of an offence under this section shall, unless the court for special reasons thinks fit to order otherwise and without prejudice to the power of the court to order a longer period of disqualification, be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of not less than 12 months from the date of his conviction or, where he is sentenced to imprisonment, from the date of his release from prison.

(3)  Any police officer may arrest without warrant any person committing an offence under this section.

 

Being in charge of motor vehicle when under influence of drink or drugs

68.—(1)  Any person who when in charge of a motor vehicle which is on a road or other public place but not driving the vehicle —

(a)         is unfit to drive in that he is under the influence of drink or of a drug or an intoxicating substance to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of a vehicle; or

(b)         has so much alcohol in his body that the proportion of it in his breath or blood exceeds the prescribed limit,

shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not less than $500 and not more than $2,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months and, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction, to a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $5,000 and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months.

(2)  For the purpose of subsection (1), a person shall be deemed not to have been in charge of a motor vehicle if he proves —

(a)         that at the material time the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of his driving the vehicle so long as he remained so unfit to drive or so long as the proportion of alcohol in his breath or blood remained in excess of the prescribed limit; and

(b)         that between his becoming so unfit to drive and the material time, or between the time when the proportion of alcohol in his breath or blood first exceeded the prescribed limit and the material time, he had not driven the vehicle on a road or other public place.

(3)  On a second or subsequent conviction for an offence under this section, the offender shall, unless the court for special reasons thinks fit to order otherwise and without prejudice to the power of the court to order a longer period of disqualification, be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driving licence for a period of 12 months from the date of his release from prison.

(4)  Where a person convicted of an offence under this section has been previously convicted of an offence under section 67, he shall be treated for the purpose of this section as having been previously convicted under this section.

(5)  Any police officer may arrest without warrant any person committing an offence under this section.

 

 

Those government PSAs where they say no to get behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking? Literally don’t do it!

 

Cheryl Tay loves life in the fast lane, whether it’s in a car, on a motorbike or on a bicycle. You can follow her on @cheryltaysg for more of her adventures!

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