People who have been charged with impaired driving are a common sight in Red Deer provincial court. Their numbers rise dramatically at this time of year, when people get together to celebrate the holiday season.
Scarcely a day goes by in the main courtroom, 101, that the judge doesn’t see two or more people who have decided to come clean, plead guilty and take their lumps.
In the first three weeks of December, Red Deer City RCMP patrols had already charged 13 people with impaired driving, and that does not include additional arrests made at Checkstops.
Of those 13 people, more than half were young men, aged 18 to 28.
On Tuesday morning, Judge Darrell Riemer heard expressions of remorse from yet another drunk driver, a young man who fit at the upper end of the 18 to 28 age group.
This young man was heading south on Gaetz Avenue downtown at about 2 a.m. on Nov. 30 when he lost control of his car, said Crown prosecutor Wayne Silliker. An RCMP officer pulled the car over after seeing it speeding and swerving from lane to lane.
Pulling up to the vehicle after it had stopped, the officer went to the driver’s door to find a highly intoxicated young man whose blood alcohol content was later measured at .19 — more than twice the legal limit of .08.
In fairness, the young man had lost control on an icy S-curve, said defence counsel Jason Snider, who pointed out that his client is a bright young professional with no criminal record. He asked Riemer to consider his client’s early guilty plea as a factor in passing sentence, and also asked that the judge recommend his client for an ignition interlock program after three months.
Snider’s client then gave the following statement to the court. He provided the Advocate with an unedited copy of his statement in hope that it would help others avoid the mistakes he made and under the condition that his identity not be revealed:
“Thank you for the opportunity to speak. The first thing I want to say is how truly sorry I am for driving while impaired.
“On that particular night, I made the poorest decisions I will ever make. Not only did I consume alcohol in excess, but also got in my car and drove afterwards. I am still shaking my head in disbelief. I can only be thankful that no one was injured or killed that night.
“I can also be thankful because as difficult as this experience has already been in my own life, it has allowed me to reflect and realign myself and change for the better. I’ve lost all desire to consume alcohol in such excess. The type of excess that diminishes my ability to make sound decisions. And never again will I drive under the influence.
“I realize the police have an extremely difficult job. I know that, above all, they knew I was a hazard on the road and acted in the interest of public safety. As difficult as it is to admit, it was a good thing I was pulled over that night. It has been a life changing experience and will continue to be.
“I have felt shame and sadness and am expressing true remorse for what I have done. Not only has this hurt me, but I see it has hurt people I love and care about — which is actually worse. I can honestly say that I have never realized what a privilege it is to drive, until I lost my licence.
“I graduated from university with a degree in engineering. I have intentions of obtaining my professional designation in the near future. I absolutely love my job and wish to have a bright future in this position and in … Red Deer.
“A large part of my job requirements include driving on a daily basis. I humbly and respectfully ask for consideration in this regard.
“In closing, I have been forced to take a closer look at myself in the last three weeks — more than I think I have in my entire life — and decide what kind of person I want to be, moving forward. I have made a promise to myself and to others to conduct myself in a healthy and productive manner and to be a positive influence in the city of Red Deer.
“Thank you for allowing me to speak.”
Riemer levied a fine of $1,300 along with a victim of crime fine surcharge and prohibited him from driving anywhere in Canada for at least one year. He also offered a recommendation for the ignition interlock program, which would allow the young man to drive a specially equipped vehicle that will not start if it detects alcohol on his breath.
The young man said after paying his fine that he is still in a state of shock and struggling to rekindle his holiday spirit.
Across Canada, penalties for impaired driving start at $1,000 with a one-year driving prohibition. Serious or repeat offenders can be subject to higher fines, lengthier suspensions and up to five years in prison. Penalties increase in the event of a collision causing injury or death, with potential for life in prison and a lifetime driving suspension.