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TK: lifetime driving ban for drunk drivers unconstitutional

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On Tuesday, the Constitutional Tribunal ruled in the case of drivers who were again convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. According to the Constitutional Tribunal, obligatory imposition of a lifetime driving ban on such persons is unconstitutional.

The court's obligatory obligation to impose a lifetime ban on driving any motor vehicle against a perpetrator who has been repeatedly convicted of the offense of driving under the influence of alcohol is unconstitutional – it ruled on Tuesday Constitutional Court.

In the justification for the ruling, Constitutional Tribunal judge Justyn Piskorski pointed out that in the provision of the Penal Code considered unconstitutional, the freedom of the court to impose a penalty in the form of a driving ban was “limited to a very significant extent by the legislator.” According to the Constitutional Tribunal, the legislator, “taking over the competences of the judiciary, determined in advance what sanction was to be imposed in the event of the circumstances specified in the provision.”

As the Constitutional Tribunal judge emphasized in connection with such a regulation, “the court is essentially reduced to the role of the executor of the act“.

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A lifetime driving ban will not come into force

– Moreover, the legislator reduced the perpetrators of material crimes with serious consequences and formal crimes to a common denominator, thus preventing the court from adapting the size of the penal measure to the nature of the violated good and the consequences of the committed act, thus further limiting the minimum exclusivity of the court's competences – Piskorski pointed out .

He added that, according to the provisions of the Penal Code, the court is “forced to apply the same reaction both to the perpetrator of a road traffic accident and to a person who drove a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, although this causes a greater risk of negative consequences, but this effect did not materialize.”

Thus, the Constitutional Tribunal found that obliging the court to impose such a lifelong ban in the event of committing an offense specified in Art. 178a par. 4 of the Penal Code is unconstitutional. The above-mentioned provision of the Penal Code provides for a repeated conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Although the provision adds that the court may waive the lifetime ban – but “only in the event of an exceptional case justified by special circumstances.” However, the default solution – as indicated by the Constitutional Tribunal – is “the automatic, obligatory imposition by the court of a lifelong penalty.”

“At the adjudication stage, the possibility of waiving the imposition of a lifetime ban depends solely on the occurrence of an exception based on concepts that are unclear and incomprehensible to the average recipient,” judge Piskorski said.

The ruling was issued after considering a constitutional complaint submitted in 2020. The Constitutional Tribunal adjudicated in a panel of five judges. The judge presided Krystyna Pawłowicz.

Another ruling in the case of recidivists

The Constitutional Tribunal has already ruled once on the mandatory imposition of a lifetime driving ban by the court. In December 2020, he found that the provision ordering the court to impose such lifetime bans on driving all vehicles is constitutional. At that time, however, it was about an obligation to impose such a lifetime ban in the event of the perpetrator being convicted of the crime of causing a fatal accident while under the influence of alcohol.

“Although both cases concerned the same provision of the Penal Code, there were very significant differences between them that required careful analysis,” noted Judge Piskorski. He added that both complaints were based “on the basis of different factual situations” and partly pointed to violations of other provisions of the constitution.

Parliament on March 6 this year. adopted a resolution on eliminating the effects of the constitutional crisis of 2015-2023, stated that “taking into account in the activities of a public authority the decisions of the Constitutional Tribunal issued in violation of the law may be considered a violation of the principle of legalism by these bodies.” The principle of legalism results from Art. 7 of the Constitution, according to which public authorities act on the basis and within the limits of the law.

The resolution stated, among other things, that due to the Sejm resolutions regarding the election of Constitutional Tribunal judges, which were adopted in flagrant violation of the law, Mariusz Muszyński, Jarosław Wyrembak and Justyn Piskorski are not judges of the Constitutional Tribunal. As noted, so far – after adopting this resolution – the Constitutional Tribunal's judgments have not been published in the Journal of Laws.

In turn, at the end of May, the Tribunal ruled that the resolution of the Sejm of March 6 this year. regarding eliminating the effects of the constitutional crisis in the context of the Constitutional Tribunal is unconstitutional.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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