Some people see things in black and white while others tend to judge each incident as a unique situation with its own parameters of right and wrong.
Take drunk driving for example. There are many who would say that under any circumstance getting behind the wheel of an automobile with significant levels of alcohol in the system deserves punishment. And then there are some that say there may be exceptions to the rule.
Luckily for some government workers who got picked up by police for drunk driving, more than a few district court judges appear to belong to the latter camp.
The latest incident that has made headlines began in June of last year. On the evening of June 14, a 40-year-old municipal worker was out drinking in Yuzawa City, Akita Prefecture, starting at 9 p.m. Following that he went to sleep in his car, which was parked outside of his house, presumably to avoid stumbling in drunk and getting in dutch with the missus.
However, at about 2:45 in the morning, his car alarm suddenly went off. Not wanting to wake up the entire neighborhood he slowly drove it to a vacant lot about 800 meters away. Apparently a slow moving vehicle with its alarm blaring caught the attention of nearby police who charged the man for driving while intoxicated.
As a result, he had to pay a 300,000 yen fine and in the following September was dismissed from his job. However, he took the matter to trial where Akita District Court Judge Tetsuo Tanahashi reversed the man’s firing from his prefectural government position.
Judge Tanahashi said, “It’s hard to say what he did was right, but he felt he had a compelling reason to do what he did… In terms of his cause, motive, or result there can’t be any maliciousness found.” Taking into account the man’s slow speed, time he had to sober up, and destination of an empty lot, the judge ruled that his termination was excessive for his individual situation.
Akita Prefecture is currently looking into reinstating the man but are awaiting a possible appeal before moving forward. Some suspect that this may have been one in a series of cases where drunk-driving charges have been revoked especially for civil servants. Policy enacted about a decade ago outlined that civil servants caught drunk driving were to be dismissed and it’s suspected that the courts are being used as a loop-hole around this by having them fired but then ordered back to work.
Others deny this pointing to cases such as the Fukuoka City official whose drunk driving accident led to the deaths of three children and got the book thrown at him. Another trial in Akita upheld the defendant’s loss of job after it was determined that in addition to being drunk, the former high school teacher was driving 30km/h over the limit.
So it would seem that judges tend to weigh cases of driving while intoxicated on their individual circumstances. Whether or not one of those circumstances is being a government worker is an issue still under debate.
Sources: : Daily Sports Online, Yomiuri Online
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