Drunk driving lawyer allowed to keep his ‘only friend,’ his car

Drunk driving lawyer allowed to keep his ‘only friend,’ his car
Image by Ludovic Sauvage

A Belgian lawyer convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol may keep his “only friend,” – his Jaguar – after courts initially tried to take it away from him. The criminal court in Bruges reversed the initial order to confiscation of his car on appeal. A big relief for the man in question.  “My Jaguar is the only friend I have,” he sighed during his trial.

On 11 January last year the lawyer – a fifty-year-old from Zwevezele – drunk drove into a parked car along the Kortrijksestraat in Oostkamp, Flanders. While he fled the scene, the police found him at home and administered a breathalyser test.  On 23 August the lawyer was stopped again when the police noticed that he was struggling to park his car in the centre of Oostkamp.  Again, a breathalyser showed him as above the legal limit. 

Belgium has strict drink driving laws, only allowing 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per millilitre of blood 

Judge Peter Vandamme sentenced the man to a fine of 9,600 euros, and a driving ban of twelve months. He also sentenced him to retake his driving test and pass medical and psychological tests, as well as being forced to put an alcolock in his car for three years. Additionally, the judge told the man he had to forfeit the Jaguar.

On appeal, the person concerned asked for a milder punishment.

“I realize I was wrong, but if I lose my car, I can no longer practice my profession. Please do not take my Jaguar, because it is the only friend I have left. I am not a bad person. Since that serious conviction, I hardly dare to drink a drop,” said the man.

His lawyer Kris Vincke also referred to his personal problems. “My client has always done an excellent job. But in his private life he had to deal with serious problems that he tried to solve with alcohol.

The judge accepted the defence plea and reversed the forfeiture of the Jaguar on Friday. The rest of the decision was confirmed in its entirety.

Jules Johnston
The Brussels Times

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