Why is drunk driving not a crime

Killer at the steering wheel - mild penalties for drunk drivers

from report: John Goetz and Volker Steinhoff

Introduction:

PATRICIA SCHLESINGER:

The SPD and the Greens, our new governing parties, have planned a lot, including a real 0.5 alcohol limit. That means: the driver's license is gone if you are caught with more alcohol in your blood. At the beginning of the year, members of the CDU and SPD wanted to push this through. It failed because of the otherwise punitive CSU, which is obviously surprisingly tolerant when it comes to alcohol. In May of this year, a compromise was then decided: 0.5 per thousand applies, but you can keep your driver's license. Even with this half-hearted regulation, fewer people were killed by drunk drivers, as statistics from the interior ministers show. But it could be even less. The report by John Goetz and Volker Steinhoff shows: Anyone who drives drunk, causes an accident and kills someone can still count on inappropriately much leniency in Germany.

COMMENT:

The same problem every evening: a beer alone doesn't quench your thirst, but the car is parked outside. Drunk driving - nothing too terrible for Germans.

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MAN:

"Nothing can happen there. Always drive slowly and if you are stopped by the police, hold your breath, breathe through your nose."

INTERVIEWER:

"So if you go home drunk, do you expect jail time?"

MAN:

"I do not think so, no."

MAN:

"Yes, you could run over someone or something like that. That's not so nice either. Well."

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CHRISTIAN SCHOENFELDER:

(Father)

"Yes, this is Lena's room."

COMMENT:

Lena Schoenfelder's room, killed by a drunk driver. Lena was 21 years old. Your room with your parents in Berlin still looks like it did back then.

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CHRISTIAN SCHOENFELDER:

"That was Lena. I just think I want her back."

COMMENT:

It was a January evening. Lena wanted to take the car to see friends. Here it happened. The drunk raced up from behind at a speed of 150 kilometers per hour. The BMW had only one front damage, completely crushing Lena's car. The death driver hardly injured. Lena didn't stand a chance in her VW Polo.

After the grief, then the anger. Roman J. doesn't have to go to jail. The reason: He was completely drunk, over two and a half per thousand. Only driving ban, fine and suspended sentence. Lena's grandfather, an actor, cannot yet believe the verdict.

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FRIEDRICH SCHOENFELDER:

(Grandfather)

"You don't get it that a person can go almost unpunished after you - that's a crime, what the man committed who killed a young person in a drunkenness. Yes, if that doesn't require a harsh punishment, then I don't know. "

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CHRISTIAN SCHOENFELDER:

"And the fact that he got away, the fact that our judiciary helped hers get him out of here now, having fun with his kids - upsets you in the worst of moments Thoughts of vigilante justice. "

COMMENT:

There are different judgments in the UK. Anyone who drinks here and then drives is considered particularly guilty, and anyone who kills someone in the process has to go to jail. Example: Joseph McKeeman, he drove a pedestrian to death while drunk and got four years in jail.

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JOSEPH McKEEMAN: (Translation)

(convicted drunkard)

"I just can't understand why the German laws are so different from ours. If you kill someone by driving drunk, you have to accept a just punishment, then you have to go to jail."

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STEVE SARGENT: (Translation)

(Hampshire Police)

"If you kill someone here drunk, you can get up to ten years in prison. Without alcohol, the sentence would be lower."

COMMENT:

Not so in Germany. Many drunken blackouts at the wheel don't have to go to jail for a day. The reason: Drinking behind the wheel does not exacerbate the penalty for the person who caused the accident, but sometimes even mitigates the penalty if someone is completely intoxicated.

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LORE MARIA PESCHEL-GUTZEIT:

(Justice Senator Hamburg, SPD)

"If I deal with the legal system, then the impression can arise and with it the signal: You just have to have a good drink and you can get away with it cheaper. That is certainly a wrong signal."

COMMENT:

Absurd: A sober driver who accidentally has an accident can be punished more severely than a drunk who drinks and drives willfully.

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CHRISTIAN SCHOENFELDER:

(Father)

"It's my fault who gets into his car while drunk."

COMMENT:

Drink driving - not a trivial offense in the UK. Everyone knows the harsh penalties, which is why the number of road deaths caused by drunk people has fallen dramatically.

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STEVE SARGENT: (Translation)

(Hampshire Police)

"Safety on our roads has improved significantly since we received higher penalties. The number of alcohol-related accident victims has decreased dramatically."

COMMENT:

In concrete terms: there is less than one traffic fatality for every 100,000 inhabitants. Not so in Germany: 1.8 dead, almost twice as many. The Brandenburg number is particularly bad: 4.5 deaths from drunk drivers, five times more than in Great Britain. Harsher punishments, fewer deaths, that works. This is also how the legal experts of the people's parties see it.

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LORE MARIA PESCHEL-GUTZEIT:

(Justice Senator Hamburg, SPD)

"We are calling for an increase in the penalties, which are currently very limited. If you are completely intoxicated, there is only a maximum sentence of five years under current law. And we believe that this cannot be okay with serious and extremely serious offenses.

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HORST EYLMANN:

(Chairman of the Legal Committee of the Bundestag, CDU)

"We need tangible penalties, and for this reason it must be critically questioned whether the sentencing is still correct, especially for alcohol in traffic."

COMMENT:

Nevertheless: the law will not be tightened, because there is resistance and it comes from the stronghold of German beer culture.

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LORE MARIA PESCHEL-GUTZEIT:

(We are experiencing the resistance in particular from Bavaria, Bavaria, i.e. CSU. But that in turn also has reasons that a lot of beer is drunk in Bavaria. "

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HORST EYLMANN:

"During the discussion we saw the lowering of the alcohol limit from 0.8 to 0.5, that the CSU, that the Free State of Bavaria only wanted to accept this lowering if no driving ban was imposed at 0.5 there, in the south of the republic, there is already resistance. "

INTERVIEWER:

"From Mr. Beckstein?"

HORST EYLMANN:

"This suggestion not to impose a driving ban at 0.5 came from Mr Beckstein."

COMMENT:

Minister Beckstein did not want to comment on our subject. He was not responsible for criminal law, he explained. When it came to preventing a stricter alcohol limit, it was different - Bavarian species protection for drunk drivers.

Many drunks would not drive if the fines were higher, and some of the nearly 1,500 road fatalities annually could still be alive - maybe Lena too.

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FRIEDRICH SCHOENFELDER:

(Grandfather)

"I'll never get that. I think that's so terribly wrong. I think that if a person gets senselessly drunk, then he must be punished for it. And if he then commits a crime, he must be punished even more severely."