Impaired driver catches big COVID break

·3 min read

A 30 year-old Sarnia man who wiped out on Highway 402 after drinking and driving was fortunate to resolve his matter through a careless driving plea.

But the Crown’s decision to proceed this way instead of pursuing the more serious over 80 charge didn’t come without inquiry from the Sarnia Court.

Vaughn Brazeau appeared June 14 to answer for a snowy crash earlier this year on Highway 402. Lambton OPP arrived to the Plympton-Wyoming stretch of highway around 5:30 pm Feb. 18 to find a 2010 grey Honda Civic stuck in deep snow in the middle ditch. Brazeau was still behind the wheel of the running car.

Brazeau said he’d been snowboarding with family in Forest. He had trouble answering questions though and had slow speech. Along with a smell of alcohol, officers decided to administer a breath test which he failed. Brazeau was taken back to the Petrolia OPP station where he blew a .109 on the blood alcohol test.

“Those facts support a finding of guilt to the offence for which you have entered,” says Austin, referring to Brazeau’s careless driving plea. The careless grounds centered on him having too much alcohol in his body.

But, Austin says “Frankly the way they read would support a finding of guilt to a more serious offence in the criminal code. But I’m sure there are reasons why the Crown Attorney has opted… in favour of proceeding in this way.”

Responding to the justice's puzzlement at why the over 80 wasn't pursued, Crown Attorney David Nicol says “This is pursuant to the COVID directive of the Attorney General for matters such as this which fit into directives for certain impaired driving charges in order to facilitate the resolution of some charges given how full the courts are.”

“Notwithstanding how seriously the Attorney General, the courts and the Crown take impaired driving cases,” says Nicol.

Austin accepted the explanation though didn’t seem fully convinced by it. “At the end of the day you have the benefit of proceeding under the Highway Traffic Act. That’s not a choice of the court, that’s a choice of the Crown Attorney’s office and an impact of the pandemic which is to your benefit," she says to Brazeau.

“This incident involved alcohol as a factor and your safety was placed at risk as a result of this incident. Police had to intervene and deal with you and were concerned about your condition vis-à-vis alcohol.”

Brazeau was handed an $1,100 fine and must complete the Back On Track remedial driving program. He also can’t drive after consuming any amount of alcohol for the next year.

“Obviously this penalty is in your interest… You’ve been allowed an opportunity to deal with this matter not as a criminal offence, so hopefully you take this every bit as seriously and maintain your responsibility as a sober driver going forward,” says Austin.

Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent

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