Sarnia courthouse

Sarnia courthouse

Two drunk driving cases in court on the same day without routine breath-testing evidence was like lightning striking the same place twice, according to Sarnia police.

On Feb. 16 two men were sentenced for impaired driving, but Justice Deborah Austin found it troubling that neither case came with breath-test results because no Sarnia police officer was available to do the testing.

Both men had pleaded guilty to impaired driving in Sarnia court.

At the time, defence lawyer Nick Cake suggested there might be a need for a hiring blitz by the Sarnia Police Service.

The lack of an officer in the two offences that occurred seven months apart in 2016 was a concern but also a fluke, like lightning striking the same place twice, said Sarnia police media officer Const. Giovanni Sottosanti.

Usually there is no problem, as each police platoon has a qualified breath technician. Even when that officer is unavailable, attempts are made to find another qualified technician by contacting the OPP, said Sottosanti.

There are ongoing efforts are made to ensure an adequate number of Sarnia officers are trained and qualified, he said. After initial qualification the officer must complete regular re-qualification.

Typically, drunk driving cases come to court with two charges, impaired driving and driving while a person’s blood-alcohol level exceeded the legal limit. Without the breath-tests the blood-alcohol charge cannot proceed.

Even when both charges are laid, it is standard for just one to be prosecuted in accordance with the Kienapple principle. That principle was established by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1975. Kienapple was the name of the person involved in the case.

The principle prohibits sentencing a person for essentially the same wrongful act as in impaired driving and the driving with a blood-alcohol level exceeding the legal limit.

Source: The Sarnia Observer