Impaired but not drunk

A Whitehorse man has been found guilty of impaired driving causing bodily harm for a 2009 car crash that severely injured two people, leaving one confined to a wheelchair.

A Whitehorse man has been found guilty of impaired driving causing bodily harm for a 2009 car crash that severely injured two people, leaving one confined to a wheelchair.

Michael Schmidt, 30, was facing six criminal charges related to the crash.

Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale found Schmidt guilty on the two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm, but acquitted Schmidt of two counts of dangerous driving and two counts of driving with a blood alcohol content of more than 0.08.

On the afternoon of December 14, 2009, Schmidt was on his way to Haines Junction with two friends, Jessica Frotten and Michael Sanderson.

By his own admission, Schmidt was driving over the speed limit when he lost control of his grey Honda Civic.

The car hit the ditch and rolled, ejecting both Frotten and Sanderson.

Schmidt, who was wearing his seatbelt at the time, was uninjured. But his two passengers weren’t so lucky.

Sanderson suffered a broken shoulder, leg and ribs and torn ligaments in his left knee.

Frotten was much more seriously injured.

She sustained a torn aorta, broken feet, punctured lungs, several broken ribs and a broken back that left her paralyzed.

Schmidt testified a frost heave caused him to crash the car, but two RCMP officers said they didn’t see any frost heaves near the crash site.

Schmidt also admitted to drinking earlier in the day.

The trio had shared a pitcher of beer with lunch, and Schmidt testified he drank a couple samples of beer at the Yukon Brewery shortly before the crash.

Schmidt wasn’t given a breathalyzer until three hours after the accident.

He blew 0.07, under the legal limit of 0.08.

An expert witness for the Crown calculated at the time of the accident that Schmidt’s blood alcohol level would have been over the legal limit.

But an expert for the defence successfully argued the time of Schmidt’s last drink was too close to the time of the crash, rendering those calculations invalid.

The contradictory scientific testimony was enough to raise reasonable doubt about Schmidt’s blood alcohol level for Veale.

However, the judge concluded Schmidt’s ability to drive was impaired at the time of the accident.

Schmidt faces up to 10 years in prison.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on December 6.

Contact Josh Kerr at joshk@yukon-news.com.