Man turns down taxi, ends up in squad car

·3 min read

A Sarnia man chose the wrong way to get home, opting to drive instead of accepting an offer for a cab.

Unfortunately for Duane Demers, 48, he was more than 2.5 times over the legal alcohol limit. Demers was sentenced to 30 days jail in court Jan. 4. But COVID complications means he won’t be serving his time just yet.

Demers’ poor decision took place just over a year ago. Shortly after midnight Jan. 28 Sarnia Police were investigating another incident on Murphy Rd. when they saw Demers fixing a flat tire on his gold Ford Escape in the JYSK parking lot. Officers noted a strong smell of alcohol and several beer cans in the SUV, including an open Molson tall boy in the cup holder.

Demers denied driving the vehicle, and officers told him to phone a cab to get home. Demers said he wouldn’t drive and would walk home instead, and officers again warned him not to get behind the wheel. They returned to their squad car and watched as Demers neither called a cab or started walking, but instead hopped into the driver’s seat and took off.

The officers immediately pulled Demers over a block away and gave him a breath test. Demers failed and was arrested for drunk driving. Later tests at the police station registered a pair of .214 blood alcohol readings.

Demers has two previous convictions for driving impaired which led the Crown to pursue a custodial sentence. “He was offered the opportunity to call a taxi, he was offered many ways to avoid this behavior,” says Crown attorney Sarah Carmody.

“Yet despite the presence of officers… and despite officers offering him this alternative route to get home, he decided that he was going to drive despite his extremely high level of intoxication,” she says.

Justice Deborah Austin decided a month of jail was appropriate. “Mr. Demers had a very high statutorily aggravating blood alcohol content in his system, and disregarded flagrantly the advice and warning of police,” Austin says.

Austin hoped to impose an intermittent sentence to allow Demers to serve time on the weekend so he can keep his job. But most jails – including in Sarnia – are not currently offering this option due to the COVID risk of having someone continually enter and exit the jail.

Carmody says since weekend time isn’t an option, an intermittent sentence would dilute the entire ruling. “There would in effect be no custodial sentence served at this point if the intermittent sentence is imposed,” she says. “At this point only a period of incarceration would be appropriate.”

Austin agreed the time must be served, but stayed firm the sentence not cost Demers his employment. She decided Demers will return Mar. 23 to resolve the matter, saying she hoped by that point intermittent sentences will have resumed. Austin called it “the fair and balanced way to approach this,” and added “the delay of these sentences beyond that timeframe becomes untenable.”

Demers also received an 18 month driving ban, which began immediately.

Alex Kurial, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent