A Yukon woman who pleaded guilty to impaired driving was given one-third of the sentence prosecutors were asking for because the judge wanted her to be able to care for her child and continue with rehabilitation.
Teri Lynn Schinkel pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing bodily harm, dangerous driving and refusing a breathalyzer.
Judge Dennis Schmidt sentenced her to 60 days in jail to be served intermittently.
According to court documents from August, the Crown would normally have sought a nine-month sentence. But given Schinkel’s history, a six-month sentence would be appropriate, they said.
Schmidt called the circumstances of Schinkel’s crimes “egregious.”
In February, she was at a house party drinking when she was assaulted by her ex-boyfriend.
The boyfriend left the house, and Schinkel decided to go after him because he forgot his coat.
“Now, there is absolutely no reason for her to leave that house party to take this coat to her ex-boyfriend. If he was cold, he would come back,” Schmidt said. “She was very selfish in her decisions. She was only thinking about what she wanted to do and went about and did that knowing that she should not do that, and she would be endangering the public if she did it.”
Schinkel was seen swerving on the road. She struck another vehicle and carried on.
“I do not think it is necessary to look at all the details, but at some point she did come across her ex-boyfriend who got into the car and proceeded to assault her again and then leave. She said she was traumatized by that event and out of her mind because of it and took off in the car,” Schmidt said.
Schinkel hit speeds of 130 to 140 kilometres per hour with one flat tire, sometimes in the wrong lane, going through stop signs and hitting medians.
“When she was coming down the hill into Whitehorse, she hit another car and that car was pushed off the road and across the median and over a bank,” Schmidt said.
The decision does not include details of the other driver’s injuries, other than to say that she was “injured fairly badly, although has recovered.”
When the ambulance arrived, Schinkel thrashed and kicked at the paramedics and had to be restrained at the hospital.
Schinkel told the judge that the crash was a turning point in her life. Schmidt said he believes her.
“She says that this accident brought her to a different way of thinking, and that she now wants to care for her child properly.
Some of her relatives have come forward and said that they also support her and want to take the same path, or are taking the same path, and if all of that is true – I have no reason to disbelieve it – things may get better in that family,” the judge said.
“The court can be of some assistance in ordering that alcohol abuse has to be dealt with by the accused.”
Schinkel has a grandfather who went to a residential school. She has had a difficult childhood, like her own mother did, Schmidt said.
“And now she is a mother herself and she is really carrying on with the same alcoholic and drug-addicted lifestyle that she saw and says that has traumatized her so badly.”
Schmidt called impaired driving “a curse on the community” that needs to be taken seriously.
“That does not mean that courts should not take into consideration all circumstances of the parties, including their aboriginal status, and come up with a sentence that is sensible in deterring but also sensible for rehabilitation,”
Schmidt told the court about a life-changing experience he had while working as a judge in the B.C. community of Alert Bay, long before the court ruling of Gladue forced judges to take a person’s aboriginal history into account.
He described going to a meeting where 500 community members were waiting to give their opinions to a judge.
“They spent the afternoon telling me about their history and their community, how in the ‘20s their elders were taken to Oakalla Prison in New Westminster for wearing traditional clothes, for going to potlatches, for being in a traditional canoe, and they said this has got to stop. The last judge here was sending our people to jail just like they did in the ‘20s,” the judge said,
“I heard their grievances and it changed me forever.”
The written decision, released this week, doesn’t say exactly how Schinkel’s time in jail will be split up.
“The reason it is intermittent is to – and I should state this on the record – is so that it allows you to carry on with your healing and look after your child,” Schmidt said.
Along with the sentence, Schinkel is also on probation for two years.
She is not allowed to drink and must take any programming her probation officer tells her to.
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