A man found twice behind the wheel while impaired by fentanyl and a host of other drugs will be off the road for the next two years.
Robert Shepherd, 31, also landed $3,000 in fines for the 2019 incidents which spanned two different jurisdictions. He was first found passed out in a Sarnia parking lot and later that year pulled over after erratic driving on the 401 near Woodstock.
“Clearly we see that there was an underlying opiate addiction in 2019,” says Defence Lawyer Nick Cake.
Shepherd’s problems came to light when Sarnia Police found him slumped over behind the wheel of a running SUV at 9:30 on a June morning. He was covered in tin foil patches, lighters and rolled up Canadian Tire money. After a lengthy operation to wake him up, Shepherd was arrested and taken to police headquarters where he tested positive for fentanyl, carfentanil and methadone.
Shepherd’s drug addiction was still present Boxing Day when officers were called to investigate an impaired driver on Highway 401. Around 7 pm police saw a Ford Escape driving aggressively and swerving between lanes, all in excess of 130 km/h. It took three police cars more than two kilometres to get Shepherd to finally realize the situation and pull over.
When they did his glossy eyes, confusion and inability to put the car in park provided grounds for an arrest. Shepherd needed to be held up while police searched him and later tested positive for fentanyl, methadone and methamphetamines.
“He is the first one that will acknowledge that he had struggled with opioids and that of course they led to his involvement in the criminal justice system. He’s very lucky and happy that no one was injured,” says Cake.
“Every day is a struggle with addiction but he’s on the better end of it and he no longer sees opioids as a major consumer of his time. He’s sober now… and he’s working very hard to remain out of active addiction on a daily basis.”
Shepherd has been taking Narcotics Anonymous classes since shortly after the Woodstock incident and has stayed clean since. Cake says he’s looking for work in his trained field of extermination, however “COVID-19 kind of exterminated the extermination industry.”
“I just wanted to say sorry,” says Shepherd.
Despite his progress Justice Krista Leszczynski felt the proposal was surprisingly lenient given the extent of Shepherd’s actions.
“The facts supporting both of these charges are very disturbing on many levels… You are lucky that neither yourself or anyone else was injured or killed as a result of your conduct.”
“In my view the joint position, specifically with respect to the information in Sarnia, is quite light given the degree of impairment that you found yourself in at that time,” says Leszczynski.
Still the justice ceded to the agreement. “I’m pleased to hear that you’ve taken active and serious steps to address that addiction and that issue and I encourage you to continue to do so, recognizing the serious nature of that substance as well as its addictive qualities,” she says to Shepherd as the sentence was imposed.
“I wish you luck both in terms of continuing to address substance abuse issues and efforts to obtain employment and obtaining your other goals.”
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent