National roll-out of mandatory alcohol and drug testing for violent offenders from 1 July

Heavier sentences for violence committed while under the influence

From 1 July, police officers nationwide will implement their legal authority to test those suspected of violent offences for the use of alcohol and drugs. While the Substance Examination Act for violent offenders entered into force on 1 January 2017, in the first six months, it was applied only on a limited scale in a trial involving tests solely for alcohol. As of 1 July, police will begin testing for drugs as well and the Act will be implemented at a national level. To do so, the police must have reason to believe that the violent act was committed while the suspect was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

It has been scientifically established that the use of alcohol and certain drugs is a major risk factor for violence. Some 26 to 43% of violent acts occurring in the Netherlands are alcohol-related. Cocaine, amphetamine and methamphetamine also lower the user’s inhibition against violence. Moreover, violence committed while under the influence often results in much more serious injuries.

If the substance examination required by law reveals that a violent act was committed under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the suspect can expect a harsher punishment. These sentences may consist of a higher fine or longer term of community service or incarceration, but may also entail specific sanctions – such as an alcohol ban – in order to combat recidivism and addiction.

The alcohol and drug tests will be administered not only in case of violence against persons, such as assault or aggravated assault, public violence or sex crimes, but also in cases involving vandalism or animal abuse. To date, the Netherlands is the only country to allow drug and alcohol testing for the purpose of requesting heavier sentences in cases where violence has been committed while under the influence.

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