Titulinė skaidrė
Salė
Vytis
Lt Fr

News

Content updated: 13-08-2020 16:09

The provisions of the Law on Road Traffic Safety under which the right to drive is regained at the earliest after 10 years due to repeated or systematic violations of law are unconstitutional

24-07-2020

By its ruling adopted today, the Constitutional Court has recognised that Paragraphs 7 and 8 (wording of 13 June 2013) of Article 24 of the Law on Road Traffic Safety (hereinafter referred to as the Law) under which a person who has, under the laws, been twice deprived of the right to drive vehicles for having committed a violation of law under the influence of alcohol or drugs, medicines, or other intoxicating substances regains this right at the earliest after 10 years are in conflict with Paragraph 5 (“No one may be punished twice for the same offence”) of Article 31 of the Constitution and with the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law.

The Telšiai District Court and the District Court of Vilnius City, the petitioners, were considering the cases of administrative offences, in which the persons had requested for the revocation of decisions of police authorities concerning the refusal to restore the right to drive vehicles. Such decisions were adopted in the light of the fact that those persons had been twice deprived of the right to drive vehicles for having committed a violation of law under the influence of alcohol and that the ten-year period laid down in Paragraph 7 of Article 24 of the Law had not yet expired so that the right to drive vehicles could be restored.

According to the petitioners, due to the impugned legal regulation, the person is punished twice for the same act (the second violation of law committed under the influence of alcohol or drugs): for the first time, the person is punished by the deprivation of the right to drive a vehicle under provisions of other laws (of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law, the Code of Administrative Offences, or the Criminal Code) and, for the second time, under Paragraph 7 of Article 24 of the Law, by not restoring the right to drive vehicles for at least 10 years. In addition, in the opinion of the petitioners, the time limit for regaining the right to drive vehicles at the earliest after 10 years, as laid down in Paragraph 7 of Article 24 of the Law, is manifestly disproportionate (inadequate) to the committed violation of law.

In its ruling, the Constitutional Court noted that, under the Constitution, among others, the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, it is a public interest to ensure traffic safety. Therefore, the legislature must establish such traffic safety requirements which are necessary to ensure public order and the security of society, human life and health, including appropriate requirements for road users. Requirements must be laid down for persons seeking to obtain the right to drive vehicles relating, inter alia, to their age, health condition, knowledge of traffic safety rules, the ability of driving vehicles, behaviour of persons. Under the Constitution, among others, the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, in order to ensure road safety, the legislature may establish such a legal regulation on the granting of the right to drive vehicles under which this right would not be granted for a certain period of time to persons who have committed the most serious violations of traffic rules, among other things, who have repeatedly drove vehicles under the influence of alcohol or drugs or who have systematically grossly violated traffic rules.

The Constitutional Court also noted that, under the Constitution, among others, the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, the law may establish sanctions of various types (administrative, criminal), including prohibition sanctions, for the violations of law committed by road users under the influence of alcohol or drugs, as well as for gross and/or systematic violations of traffic rules. Such a prohibition sanction is the deprivation of the right to drive a vehicle for a certain period of time.

While establishing both the conditions for granting the right to drive vehicles, as well as the sanctions for prohibiting the exercise of this right, the legislature must respect the imperatives of the consistency and coherence of the legal system, which arise from the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, the requirements of reasonableness, justice, and proportionality, as well as the principle of non bis in idem enshrined in Paragraph 5 of Article 31 of the Constitution under which it is prohibited to punish twice for the same act that is contrary to law. The Constitutional Court recalled that this principle does not deny in itself the possibility of applying more than one sanction of the same kind to a person for the same violation and It is possible to answer whether a relevant legal regulation violates the constitutional principle non bis in idem only upon assessing the nature of violations of law for which relevant sanctions are established, as well as socially significant objectives that are sought by the legislature.

The Constitutional Court also recalled that the constitutional principle of justice is also an inseparable element of the content of the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law. The constitutional principles of justice and a state under the rule of law also imply that the measures established by the state for violations of law must be proportionate (adequate) to the violation of law; there must be a fair balance (proportionality) between the pursued objective to punish the violators of law and to ensure the prevention of the violations of law and the measures chosen for reaching this objective.

The Constitutional Court found that, under the impugned legal regulation laid down in Paragraph 7 of Article 24 of the Law, a person who, under the Code of Administrative Violations of Law, the Code of Administrative Offences, or the Criminal Code, for a violation of law under the influence of alcohol or drugs, medicines, or other intoxicating substances, is, for the second time, subject to a prohibition sanction – the deprivation of the right to drive a vehicle (prohibition from exercising this right), is also subject to a special condition identical in substance – the time limit for regaining the right to drive vehicles at the earliest after 10 years. It should be noted that, under the Code of Administrative Violations of Law, the Code of Administrative Offences, or the Criminal Code, the maximum duration of the deprivation of the right to drive a vehicle (prohibition from exercising this right) is (was) five years, i.e. twice as short as the time limit laid down in the impugned Paragraph 7 of Article 24 of the Law.

In the light of the above, the Constitutional Court held that the time limit for regaining the right to drive vehicles at the earliest after 10 years laid down in Paragraph 7 of Article 24 of the Law amounted, by its nature, to the sanction applied to a person for a violation of law committed for the second time under the influence of alcohol or drugs, medicines, or other intoxicating substances.

Thus, although the legal regulation consolidated in Paragraph 7 of Article 24 of the Law is aimed at implementing the public interest – to ensure road safety, it also establishes the prohibition of driving vehicles for at least 10 years, amounting to the sanction, which is applied together with the sanction for the same violation of law imposed under the Code of Administrative Violations of Law, the Code of Administrative Offences, or the Criminal Code – the deprivation of the right to drive a vehicle (prohibition from exercising this right). Therefore, the Constitutional Court held that the legal regulation consolidated in Paragraph 7 (wording of 13 June 2013) of Article 24 of the Law violates the constitutional principle consolidated in Paragraph 5 of Article 31 of the Constitution prohibiting from punishing a person twice for the same act that is contrary to law.

The Constitutional Court also drew attention to the imperative nature of the legal regulation consolidated in Paragraph 7 (wording of 13 June 2013) of Article 24 of the Law and its incompatibility with the legal regulation established by the Code of Administrative Violations of Law, the Code of Administrative Offences, or the Criminal Code: the time limit for regaining the right to drive vehicles at the earliest after 10 years is applied unconditionally and in all cases irrespective of the specific period for which the right to drive vehicles has been withdrawn by imposing an appropriate administrative penalty on a person under the Code of Administrative Violations of Law, administrative measure under the Code of Administrative Offences or penal measure under the Criminal Code. Thus, due to the impugned legal regulation, the sanction applied to a person under the Code of Administrative Violations of Law, the Code of Administrative Offences, or the Criminal Code for a violation of law committed for the second time under the influence of alcohol or drugs, medicines, or other intoxicating substances –the deprivation of the right to drive a vehicle (prohibition from exercising this right), whose maximum duration may be of up to five years, is meaningless. In the light of the above, the Constitutional Court assessed such a legal regulation as contradictory. Moreover, under the legal regulation established in Paragraph 7 of Article 24 of the Law, the time limit for regaining the right to drive vehicles at the earliest after 10 years is applied irrespective of how long ago the first such violation was committed. Therefore, such a legal regulation does not create preconditions for ensuring a fair balance between the pursued objective to punish individuals and to ensure the prevention of the violations of law and the measures chosen for reaching this objective.

In the light of these arguments, the Constitutional Court held that, when establishing the legal regulation consolidated in Paragraph 7 of Article 24 of the Law, the legislature did not respect the imperatives of the consistency and coherence of the legal system, which arise from the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, and the requirements of reasonableness, justice, and proportionality.

The Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion that, if it finds the unconstitutionality of provisions whose compliance with the Constitution is not impugned by a petitioner but which are consolidated in the same legal act the constitutionality of whose other provisions is impugned by the petitioner, it must state that the said provisions that are not impugned by the petitioner are unconstitutional. The implementation of constitutional justice implies that a legal act (part thereof) that is in conflict with the Constitution must be removed from the legal system; therefore, under the Constitution, the Constitutional Court must remove from the legal system all unconstitutional provisions whose unconstitutionality comes to light in the constitutional justice case at issue.

The Constitutional Court drew attention to the fact that the legal regulation established in Paragraph 8 of Article 24 of the Law is similar to the legal regulation established in Paragraph 7 of Article 24 of this Law. Paragraph 8 of Article 24 of the Law also establishes the prohibition, amounting to the sanction, of driving vehicles for at least 10 years for the person who has, under the laws, been three times deprived of the right to drive vehicles, which is applied together with the sanction for the same violation of law imposed under the Code of Administrative Violations of Law, the Code of Administrative Offences, or the Criminal Code – the deprivation of the right to drive a vehicle (prohibition from exercising this right). Due to the legal regulation laid down in Paragraph 8 of Article 24 of the Law, the sanction imposed under the Code of Administrative Violations of Law, the Code of Administrative Offences, or the Criminal Code – the deprivation of the right to drive a vehicle (prohibition from exercising this right), whose maximum duration may be of up to five years, is meaningless. In addition, under the legal regulation established in Paragraph 8 of Article 24 of the Law, the time limit for regaining the right to drive vehicles at the earliest after 10 years is applied to the person who is deprived of the right to drive vehicles for the third time, irrespective of how long ago the first or the second violation was committed, for the commission of which the right to drive vehicles was withdrawn, and of the nature of these violations.

In view of the above and on the grounds of the same provisions of the official constitutional doctrine as in assessing the constitutionality of the impugned legal regulation established in Paragraph 7 of Article 24 of the Law, the Constitutional Court held that the legal regulation consolidated in Paragraph 8 of Article 24 of the Law violated the constitutional principle consolidated in Paragraph 5 of Article 31 of the Constitution prohibiting from punishing a person twice for the same act that is contrary to law; by this legal regulation, the legislature did not respect the imperatives of the consistency and coherence of the legal system, which arise from the constitutional principle of a state under the rule of law, and the requirements of reasonableness, justice, and proportionality.

In this context, the Constitutional Court also noted that the legislature may impose such a requirement related to the conduct of a person to acquire (restore) the right to drive vehicles according to which this right could be granted after a certain period of time upon the execution of an administrative penalty or administrative measure for the committed violation of the Road Traffic Rules or of a punishment for the criminal act related to the violation of the Road Traffic Rules, or release from such punishment. Such time limits could include the period laid down by laws during which a person is considered, for certain purposes, to be punished for a violation of law: according to Article 40 “Repeated of administrative offences” (wording of 12 December 2019) of the Code of Administrative Offences, this time limit is one year from the date of execution of the administrative penalty or administrative measure. Paragraph 3 (wording of 21 March 2019) of Article 97 of the Criminal Code prescribes the time limits for the persons to be considered as having previous conviction.