Pleading guilty to impaired charge instead of .08 ends up with minimum penalty

In one of the first cases to be tried in Estevan Provincial Court under new drunk driving laws, a man whose blood alcohol content was over twice the legal limit was given a mandatory minimum sentence.

Preston Mitten represented himself in court on Monday with regards to his impaired driving charges, but doing so ended up in a somewhat unusual result.

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In nearly all impaired driving cases before Estevan Provincial Court over the past year, the alleged offender is charged with two counts; one count for operating a motor vehicle while impaired, and one count for operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content over .08. Several other people faced this very same circumstances, under the old laws, on the same day in court.

However, a person cannot be convicted of both, so in nearly all instances when someone pleads guilty, the impaired driving charge is stayed by the Crown, and the offender is convicted of the .08 charge.

And with that, the offender’s actual blood alcohol reading, as taken by a breathalyzer, often becomes an aggravating factor in sentencing should their blood alcohol content be considered quite high. Higher blood alcohol content levels have often resulted in higher fines.

The charges Mitten faced were under the new impaired driving law, Section 320.14 a and b of the Criminal Code of Canada, as opposed to the previous Section 253.1 a and b.

In Mitten’s case, he had been charged with “operating a conveyance” (some of the new verbiage in the new laws) while impaired, and the second charge was that he had done so with was blood alcohol concentration that is equal to or exceeds 80 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood (commonly referred to as .08).

Crown prosecutor Chris Gratton said that on Jan. 4, 2019, at 8 p.m., a vehicle ended up in the ditch on the Shand Access Road, south of the Shand Power Station. When police arrived, the truck was being towed out of the ditch.

The police observed that Mitten had red eyes, and a slight smell of alcohol about him, but he was very co-operative. He told police he had had his last drink three hours before.

When he blew into the breathalyzer, his results came back .190 and .190, both in excess of twice the legal limit, which in other cases Judge Lane Wiegers has considered an aggravating factor in sentencing.

However, Mitten had, just minutes prior, pleaded guilty to impaired driving instead of the .08 charge, which then had Wiegers asking Gratton, “Can I consider the .190 in that circumstance?”

In the end, Wiegers accepted the guilty plea, and Gratton stayed the .08 charge.

“I just made a mistake,” Mitten said.

When the judge asked him what he does for a living, Mitten said he works in the oilfield.

In the end Wiegers imposed the mandatory minimum sentence of $1,000 and a 12-month driving prohibition. He gave Mitten four months to pay.


Shawn Karaim was seen leaving a drinking establishment on Oct. 14, 2018. He made two right turns with his vehicle before the police conducted a traffic stop.

Police found a case of beer on the floor of Karaim’s vehicle, and his eyes watery and bloodshot. He was also moving slowly, according to the police report. Subsequent blood alcohol content readings taken on a breathalyzer resulted in Karaim blowing .110 and .100, both in excess of the legal limit of .08.

Police found 0.7 grams of cocaine in his front pocket, resulting in a cocaine possession charge.

In a joint submission, Karaim pleaded guilty to operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content in excess of .08, as well as the cocaine possession charge.

The 24-year-old works on drilling rigs, and had no prior criminal record or addictions, according to his lawyer, Nicolas Robinson, who appeared by telephone.

Judge Lane Wiegers credited Karaim for his guilty plea, and said, “I will treat this as an isolated incident.”

He termed it, “A serious mistake.”

In accordance with the joint submission for sentencing, Wiegers gave Karaim a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000, plus a 12-month driving prohibition. He also handed down a $250 fine for cocaine possession.

Tyr Nelson Brown appeared in court, facing charges for impaired driving as well as failing to appear.

Judge Wiegers noted that the charges stem from matters in 2013.

“I was in Alberta,” Brown replied.

Wiegers pointed out that Brown’s charges had been set for trial in 2014.

“I’ll give you more time to hire a lawyer,” Wiegers said, adjourning the matter until March 11. But he warned, “You can’t delay it any longer.”

© Copyright Estevan Mercury


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