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HomesingaporeWoman caught for drink driving cites gastric reflux and stomach bloating, gets...

Woman caught for drink driving cites gastric reflux and stomach bloating, gets fine and driving ban

SINGAPORE: A woman who failed a breath test after being stopped at a police roadblock pleaded guilty to drink driving, but said her gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) might have affected the breathalyser result.

After being told that her guilty plea could not be accepted if she stood by this as she was essentially contesting her alcohol level, the woman then raised her gastric condition as a “contributing factor”.

Salimah Bi Saleem Jewahar, 28, pleaded guilty to one count of drink driving and was sentenced to a fine of S$2,500 (US$1,800) and a driving ban of two years.

According to a judgment made available on Tuesday (Nov 7), she is appealing against the driving ban.

The court heard that Salimah was at her office in Ubi with her boss at about 6pm on Jul 5.

She drank a cup of gin and tonic from around 6pm to 7.30pm. After this, she intended to go home but received a call from a friend to pick her up at Aliwal Street as her friend had drunk too much alcohol.

After picking her friend up, Salimah was stopped for checks along Crawford Street at a police roadblock at about 1.15am on Jul 6.

She failed the breath test and she was taken to the traffic police headquarters for a breath analysing device test. 

The test, taken at 2.35am, showed 46 microgrammes of alcohol in every 100ml of Salimah’s breath. This was above the limit of 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100ml of breath.

The prosecution sought a fine of S$2,500 and a two-year driving ban for Salimah.

Salimah, who was unrepresented, suggested in mitigation that her GERD might have influenced her stomach’s activity and potentially affected the breathalyser result.

After being told that her plea could not be taken if she stood by this and essentially contested her alcohol level reflected in the test result, Salimah amended her mitigation plea.

In her amended plea, she said she would like to bring to the court’s attention the presence of her GERD as “a special condition” in her case, with the hope of potentially reducing her driving ban period.

She said she did not intend to contest the breathalyser reading. Instead, she sought to seek the “compassion and understanding” of the court regarding the “possible influence of GERD”. 

She tendered medical documents to show that she had been suffering from “stomach bloatedness and GERD symptoms for a few years”.

However, the court noted that she gave no evidence as to what possible influence GERD could have, or why it would be a “contributing factor” to the offence.

When asked by the court about this, she clarified that she “simply wished that the court consider her suffering from GERD as a ‘potential health condition’ when passing sentence”.

Salimah also said she did not typically indulge in alcohol consumption, but had decided to drink that night as she had a work gathering involving key investors for a business expansion project. She said she decided to accept a drink out of “respect” for the occasion.

She said she had a successful career as a business manager after years of hard work and has learnt an invaluable lesson, vowing never to jeopardise her career and progress she had made in life by testing the boundaries of the law again.

The judge said the contention that Salimah was suffering from GERD was “neither here nor there”. There was no evidence tendered on what possible influence the condition could have in relation to the offence.

The penalties for a first-time drink driver are a jail term of up to 12 months, a fine of between S$2,000 and S$10,000, or both. 

On top of this, unless there are special reasons, the court must order that the offender be banned from driving for at least two years.

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