“I have been in the criminal justice system for a number of years and I have seen a lot of high readings. However, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen readings that high,” says Justice Krista Leszczynski.
The veteran judge was referring to blood alcohol readings obtained from Johan Klassen, 27, the night of his arrest for drunk driving. The highest, a .371, is more than 4.5 times the legal limit. This is considered a range where serious risk to a person’s health begins, including a coma or even death.
“It’s most aggravating, it’s most concerning,” says Leszczynski during court Mar. 17.
Klassen was flagged by an OPP officer June 29 last year for an expired plate. When he pulled into a Plympton-Wyoming gas station the officer noticed a strong odor of alcohol, glossy and bloodshot eyes, and a flushed face on Klassen.
The officer also noticed an open half-drank tall-boy beer can in the cup holder, and dozens of other beer cans throughout Klassen’s vehicle, some open or finished. Klassen, who had been steadying himself against the gas station wall, was arrested and taken to the Petrolia OPP station where he gave the staggering readings.
“I’m not an alcoholic,” says Klassen. He says it was a one-off event, and he drank so much after becoming upset over a relationship issue.
“I hate drinking and driving, it’s all bad and terrible. I just made a stupid mistake, and I hope you take it easy on me,” he says.
Klassen says he doesn’t have time for probation, which had been a suggestion of the Crown. “When individuals are operating motor vehicles with alcohol levels that high, there can only be the assumption that there must be some alcohol issues with that individual,” says Crown Attorney David Nicol.
Leszczynski told Klassen he would have to make the time, calling the incident a “red flag.” He was given 12 months of probation, during which he must complete counselling for alcohol abuse.
“Frankly sir, although you indicate this was just a stupid mistake, it’s one that could have cost you your life, or it could have cost the lives of others in this community,” says Leszczynski.
Klassen was also handed a $2,500 fine and is banned from driving for one year.
Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent