Drunk driving trial wraps up

Michael Schmidt’s fate now rests with the court. The Whitehorse man is facing six counts of dangerous and impaired driving causing bodily harm, after a December 2009 car crash severely injured two of his friends.

Michael Schmidt’s fate now rests with the court.

The Whitehorse man is facing six counts of dangerous and impaired driving causing bodily harm, after a December 2009 car crash severely injured two of his friends.

The trial wrapped up on Friday.

Justice Ronald Veale will decide Schmidt’s future.

On the last day of the trial, the court heard scientific testimony that called into question Schmidt’s blood alcohol level at the time of the crash.

“In this case, I feel there’s a significant possibility that the RCMP’s calculations do not represent a true indication at time of the accident,” said Dr. Mariah Wallener, an adjunct professor of pharmacology at the University of British Columbia.

The RCMP didn’t take a breath sample from Schmidt until almost three hours after the accident.

At that time he blew 0.07, under the legal limit of 0.08.

By extrapolation, the RCMP calculated Schmidt’s level would have been between 0.086 and 0.133 at the time of the crash.

However, that calculation depends on when Schmidt had his last drink.

Schmidt testified he drank at least two samples of beer at the Yukon Brewery at 3:30 p.m.

It was sometime around 4 p.m. Schmidt hit a frost heave on the Alaska Highway and lost control of his grey Honda Civic. He hit the ditch and the car flipped, ejecting his two passengers.

Both were seriously injured. One remains confined to a wheelchair to this day.

If Schmidt did have a drink at 3:30 p.m., then the RCMP’s calculations are invalid and likely exaggerated, said Wallener.

That’s because the calculations used to extrapolate are only valid 30 to 40 minutes after the last drink, when blood alcohol levels have reached their peak.

Even a few ounces of beer in the interim can throw everything off.

“[Schmidt] had consumed alcohol, but it’s only against the law if his ability to drive was impaired,” said Schmidt’s lawyer, Gordon Coffin. “In my submission, you can’t find that beyond a reasonable doubt.” 

However, in an emotional interview with police the day of the crash, Schmidt said he hadn’t had anything to drink at the brewery.

“If you simply discount that drink 30 minutes prior to the crash, it would solve the problem,” said Crown attorney Bonnie MacDonald in her closing remarks.

Regardless of whether he was impaired at the time of the accident, there is still the issue of dangerous driving.

At the time of the accident Schmidt admitted to speeding.

He said he was going around 110 kilometers an hour at the time.

To be convicted of dangerous driving a person has to have done something that is a marked departure from the behavior of a reasonably prudent driver.

Speeding alone is not enough, said Coffin.

“At the end of the day, we have a tragic accident with serious injuries,” he said. “It may have been careless, but in my submission that does not reach the level of dangerous.”

But MacDonald disagreed.

“He’s going so fast that a little bit of ice threw him right off the road,” she said.” This is not a momentary lapse, this is nothing more than a marked departure.”

Veale’s expected to deliver his verdict on November 14.

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com

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