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Kenyan Court Bans Random Breath Tests for Alcoholic Drivers

April 12, 2017 at 01:00 pm | Lifestyle

Mark Babatunde

Mark Babatunde

April 12, 2017 at 01:00 pm | Lifestyle

Some lawyers have argued that the law empowering NTSA officials to carry out random breathalyser tests was a violation of the rights and freedom of choice of citizens. Photo Credit: The Star

A top court in Kenya has banned the random use of breathalyzer tests by the police to fish out alcoholic drivers.

Kenya’s Court of Appeal has ruled that the use of breathalyzers to charge drunk drivers in court is illegal, according to the Star.

In their judgement Friday, a three-judge panel of the appeal court ruled that alcoblow (the breathalyzer kit) can be used to measure levels of alcohol consumed but that police cannot charge anyone under the rules that established alcoblow.

Breathalyzer kenya

A breath test being administered in Kenya. Photo credit: BBC

The decision followed a suit brought before the court by Nairobi bar owner Kariuki Ruitha who argued that the random use of breathalyzers by officials of the National Transport Safety Authority (NTSA) on his customers as they left his premises was ruining his business.

Ruitha claimed that he had lost 80 percent of his patrons and was forced to lay off 44 of his employees.

Ruitha’s lawyers said that the law empowering NTSA officials to carry out random breathalyzer tests was a violation of the rights and freedom of choice of citizens.

The Appeal Court ruling was the culmination of a three-year legal battle instituted by Ruitha at a lower court in 2014. While the court appeared to have ruled in his favor, the judges directed that the law backing the use of breathalyzers should be rewritten in parliament to give it a stronger legal backing.

“As the need to prohibit drunk-driving is still dire, and this matter being of great public interest, no doubt the authorities will move with quick dispatch to remedy the position,” the judges said.

Responding to Friday’s ruling, NTSA said in a statement that it will continue using breathalyzers to arrest drunk drivers. Director General Francis Meja said the agency will not relent in its efforts to curb the danger of drunk driving among Kenyans.

“The court noted that the breathalyzer rules did not introduce any new offenses other than those in the Traffic Act, adding that there is need to amend the Traffic Act to realign it to the breathalyzer rules,” Meja stated.

“NTSA informs members of the public that driving under the influence of alcohol is an offense and that the authority will continue to execute its mandate so as to keep our roads safe.”

Reports say Kenyan roads are some of the most dangerous and chaotic in the world, with few rules observed by pedestrians, motorcyclists, and drivers. In fact, government data reveals that at least 1,574 people died in road traffic accidents in the first half of 2016 alone.

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