Bill to tackle perpetrators of violence to House of Representatives

Suspects of an act of violence have to count on a higher penalty if evidence from a drugs or alcohol test shows that they acted while under the influence. In that case the result counts extra for the sentence demanded by the public prosecutor and the penalty set by the judge. This is the content of a bill which was sent to the House of Representatives today by Minster Opstelten of Security and Justice. He wants to improve the way acts of violence while under the influence of drugs or alcohol are tackled and have the perpetrators of acts of violence punished more strictly.

The added value of the bill is that the question whether and if so how much, drugs or alcohol the suspect has used is addressed in the courtroom. That does not happen enough now, because alcohol or drug use is not recorded standardly in the police report. This means that in most cases the court does not know if the suspect committed the violence while under the influence and it can therefore not be taken into account for the determination of the sentence. The test improves existing practice.

The drugs and alcohol test is only used for investigative purposes and in casr of suspicion of an act of violence for which preventive custody is possible such as assault and battery or overt acts of violence. There also have to be indications that the act of violence was committed while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Police officers are not able to perform the test for every act of violence.

The bill does not restrict the liberty of criminal courts in any way. They remain completely free in imposing the sentence. Various circumstances and facts such as drug and alcohol abuse can play a part in setting the sentence. The bill does not change that at all. it will be easier however to establish the amount of drugs or alcohol that was involved.

An additional plus is that provisonal sanctions can be imposed as part of the sentence in order to tackle repeated offences and addiction. Examples are an alcohol ban, a location ban, or the use of recognised behaviour interventions for youths and adults with the objective to change their behaviour.

A test consists of a prliminary investigation and a follow-up investigation. In the preliminary test a breath analysis or saliva test decides if alcohol or drugs were used. The follow-up investigation accurately specifies how much alcohol or drugs were used by the suspect. One of the ways to do this is by testing the suspect's blood.

Experts led by the Dutch Forensic Institute (NFI) say that limits may be established for alcohol and drugs, above which it is safe to assume that the use boosts aggression. If the result is more than 0.1 milligram alcohol per milliliter blood and for drugs more than 0.050 milligram per liter blood, a sentence increase becomes feasible. At the moment, a link with violence can only be assumed for cocaine, amphetamine and metamphetamine. Only if it is established that the suspect used so much drugs or alcohol that he exceeds the limits, a sentence increase is justified.

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