Drunk driver gets 60 days in jail for third offence

An alcoholic who caused a three-vehicle crash near Sylvan Lake two years ago will serve weekends in jail and lose his driving privileges for two more years.

An alcoholic who caused a three-vehicle crash near Sylvan Lake two years ago will serve weekends in jail and lose his driving privileges for two more years.

Sylvan Lake business owner Robert Ritchie, 41, was arrested at the scene on June 12, 2014, when RCMP were called to a collision on Hwy 20 at the Aspelund Road, three kilometres north of Jarvis Bay.

Police determined that a Porsche Carrera was speeding north on Hwy 20 when it slammed into the back end of a Volkswagen car, pushing it into the path of an oncoming semi.

In an agreed statement of facts read for Judge John Holmes in Red Deer provincial court on Tuesday, Crown prosecutor Randy McDonald said that there were no major injuries as a result of the collision.

Tested for blood alcohol levels back at the detachment, Ritchie blew .320 — four times the legal limit of .08 (80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood).

He was charged with impaired driving, driving while over the legal limit and dangerous driving. In court on Tuesday and represented by defence counsel Will Willms, he pleaded guilty to the second charge. The other two were withdrawn as a result. In Canada, people arrested for impaired driving and driving over the legal limit can be convicted of either offence, but not both.

In an agreed statement of facts drafted during plea negotiations, MacDonald and Willms asked for a sentence of 60 days to be served intermittently, with a two-year driving prohibition and 18 months of probation.

MacDonald noted in offering the recommendation that Ritchie had two prior convictions for similar offences in Ontario, dated in 2003 and 2006, and had served 21 days in prison for the second offence.

While those two convictions are “somewhat dated,” they should be considered in sentencing, said MacDonald.

Speaking on his client’s behalf, Willms said Ritchie has recognized that he has a serious addiction and has taken steps to change his life, including joining Alcoholics Anonymous, making regular contact with his sponsor and taking treatment from a private psychologist based in Calgary.

“He is well aware that his days of alcohol consumption are over,” said Willms, explaining that Ritchie would benefit from a period of probation to help him get the counselling he needs to deal with his addiction.

In his address to the court, Ritchie apologized for his actions, said he was thankful that no one was seriously hurt and admitted that he had slipped up twice since the collision.

Ritchie said that besides being the sole income earner for his wife and child, he has seven employees who rely on him for their livelihood.

Holmes said he found the sentencing submissions to be reasonable, sentencing Ritchie to 60 days in jail to be served on weekends, starting July 1. He prohibited him from driving in Canada for two years, placed him on 18 months of probation and, as a condition of his probation, ordered that he pay $1,500 by Dec. 31 in restitution to the driver of the Volkswagen for costs not covered by insurance.


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