I am a concerned citizen and I recently heard that there is a new law against drunk driving. I was wondering how this law works. I frequently drive in Metro Manila and I am worried that abusive and inefficient traffic enforcers might use this law to apprehend and extort from drivers. Can traffic enforcers just flag down any vehicle and subject us to random alcohol testing? I have several experiences on harassment by traffic enforcers that is why I want to understand the guidelines in the implementation of this law so we can know our legal rights to protect us from possible harassment. I hope your office can enlighten us on this matter. Thank you!
Dear Speedy G.,
Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10586, known as the Anti-Drunk and Drugged Driving Act of 2013, provides for the rules in the apprehension and penalizing of drunk and drugged drivers. While we understand your concerns on the enforcement of this law, it is good to know that the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of this law provide clear and specific guidelines on how to apprehend drunk drivers.
Rule III, Section 1 of the IRR of R.A. No. 10586 provides that a law enforcement officer tasked to implement this law must have a probable cause or a reasonable ground that a driver is intoxicated before he can make an apprehension for the violation of the said law.
And for there to be a probable cause, the rule provides that an enforcer must personally witness a traffic offense committed such as lane straddling, sudden stops, or speeding, which may indicate a driver driving under the influence of alcohol. Therefore, a law enforcer cannot randomly stop any vehicle. There must first be a traffic offense, which will be the basis to flag down a vehicle. Once a vehicle is apprehended for a traffic offense, a law enforcer’s observation on the physical appearance of the driver such as slurred speech, poor coordination or blood shot eyes may serve as probable cause for possible violation of the anti-drunk driving law (Ibid.).
If the law enforcer determines the existence of a probable cause to suspect that a driver is intoxicated, the law enforcer must inform the driver of such observation and undertake a further screening to determine if the driver is intoxicated. This further screening involves taking the Field Sobriety Tests, which is a standardized test to assess if the driver is intoxicated. These tests include an eye-test, the walk-and-turn test, and the one-leg stand test.
If the driver passes all of the three (3) Field Sobriety Tests, the driver shall be apprehended only for the traffic violation and not for the violation of the anti-drunk driving law. On the other hand, if the driver fails any of the said tests, the law enforcer shall use an alcohol breath analyzer to determine the blood alcohol content of the driver. A driver who registers an elevated blood alcohol content shall be arrested and detained in the nearest police station while his vehicle shall be impounded to the nearest LTO impounding area. If the driver’s blood alcohol content is within the allowed limit, he shall be apprehended only for the traffic offense he may have made and under no circumstance shall a driver be subjected to drug testing if he has undergone and passed the field sobriety test (Ibid.).
With this information, we hope to have apprised you better on your rights with regard to the implementation and procedure for apprehensions due to violation of the anti-drunk driving law.
Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org