• Wojciech Sawicki

    Associate, Duraj Reck & Partners Law Firm

14 March 2024

Vehicle forfeiture – is it the right solution?

Almost all of them have already been informed that from March 14, 2024. A drunk driver will lose his car or pay the equivalent of the car. This forfeiture applies in two situations: if a drunk driver causes an accident (with a blood concentration of more than 1 per mille, his or her certificate is mandatory) or obligatorily if the drunk driver drives a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of not less than 1.5 per mille (although in this case the court may waive the ruling in exceptional cases). The only question that arises is – has anyone thought about the proportionality of this solution?

In a completely incomprehensible way, the legislator assumed that the forfeiture of a motor vehicle and the forfeiture of the equivalent value of the vehicle is not adjudicated if the perpetrator drove a vehicle other than his or her own while performing professional or business activities consisting in driving a vehicle for the employer. In such a case, the court will only award a surcharge of at least PLN 5,000 to the Fund for Assistance to Victims and Post-Penitentiary Assistance.

Such a solution is a clear contradiction of the principle of proportionality. It is not difficult to imagine a situation where, for example, a drunk truck driver (over 1.5 per mille) is detained and the penalty threatened with him may be limited to only PLN 5,000, while if he were driving his private vehicle – his forfeiture would be pronounced.

Objectively, it should be stated that the behaviour of a professional driver who is in the course of professional transport of cargo in a heavy goods vehicle in a state of serious alcohol intoxication (above 1.5 per mille) should be assessed more critically than the behaviour of a person travelling in a non-professional car with the same concentration of alcohol in the blood.

On the other hand, as to the construction of forfeiture itself, there are serious doubts about its legitimacy in a situation where a drunk driver has at his disposal different cars (of different values). It is probable that a pathology will occur, consisting in the behaviour in which a drunk driver, in order to reduce the discomfort of the threatened forfeiture, will choose a cheaper of his cars as his means of transport. Once again, it is incompatible with the principle of proportionality to differentiate the financial consequences of the offence depending on the vehicle chosen. After all, regardless of which car he owned, his behavior deserves the same sanction.

Unfortunately, once again, the opportunity to link the financial hardship of the punishment with the real possibilities of the perpetrators (e.g. penalties relative to income) was lost.

Fortunately, there are already voices about the planned amendment, which may solve the above doubts as to the proportionality of this solution.

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