Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for November 9, 2012

Driver freed after court throws out conviction

A Whitehorse man convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm has been granted a new trial.

By Ashley Joannou on November 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm

A Whitehorse man convicted of impaired driving causing bodily harm has been granted a new trial.

Judges with the B.C./Yukon Court of Appeal made their decision this morning in the case of Michael Schmidt.

The three justices, Harvey Groberman, Christopher Hinkson and David Harris, were unanimous.

Last March, the 30-year-old was sentenced by Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale to eight months in jail. He had been found guilty of two counts of impaired driving causing bodily harm.

Schmidt was acquitted of two counts of dangerous driving and another two counts of driving with a blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.08.

He was released months later on bail pending appeal.

The case dates back to Dec. 14, 2009, when Schmidt was driving from Whitehorse to Haines Junction with Jessica Frotten and Michael Sanderson.

Schmidt’s Honda car crashed on the Alaska Highway near the Takhini River Bridge.

Frotten and Sanderson were ejected from the vehicle. Frotten was paralyzed after breaking her back.

She also suffered a torn aorta, broken feet, punctured lungs, several broken ribs and a concussion.

Sanderson broke his right shoulder, left leg, multiple ribs and tore ligaments in his left knee.

Today, the justices agreed it’s possible to acquit someone of driving with a blood alcohol count of more than 0.08 while still finding him or her guilty of impaired driving.

However, Hinkson said Veale erred in the way he came to that conclusion in this case.

Hinkson pointed to three findings that led Veale to believe Schmidt was impaired: that Schmidt had consumed alcohol before driving, the fact he was speeding and his reaction to the road conditions.

During the trial, Schmidt testified the trio had gone out for lunch prior to the crash. He had consumed a burger and French fries along with two or three glasses of beer.

The appeal court ruled that some consumption of alcohol and the smell of alcohol on someone’s breath are not enough to equal impairment.

Schmidt also admitted to driving at 110-113 km/h at the time of the rollover.

The speed limit in the area is 90 km/h.

But again, the justices ruled speeding is not enough to conclude that someone is impaired.

Hinkson pointed to evidence that speeding is common in the territory.

Lastly, the justices pointed to evidence of the road’s condition at the time of the crash.

In his decision, Veale found no evidence of frost heaves, which Schmidt blames for what happened.

Schmidt’s evidence was contradicted by an RCMP officer, but others who testified agreed.

Overall, the justices ruled those factors were insufficient to find impairment.

Schmidt will remain released on conditions pending his new trial.

CommentsAdd a comment

flyingfur

Nov 9, 2012 at 5:20 pm

What a travesty of justice this whole thing is becoming…I’m guessing at the new trial he’ll get off.  Too bad Ms. Frotten couldn’t appeal what happened to her and get another chance.

sam

Nov 9, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I liked the fact that if you were drinking but not over the limit you could be convicted with impaired driving.
Maybe the way to get justice is a civil suit by Ms. Frotten which will have Mr, Schmidt paying for a long time.

June Jackson

Nov 9, 2012 at 6:52 pm

I rarely condone personal injury suits..but in this case, I think both those who were injured, the parents of the injured, the Government of Yukon, who, (basically taxpayers) picked up the medical bill for the injured, should bring a civil suit against Schmidt.

Jessica Frotten will be paralyzed for the rest of her life and is going to need a lot of care and the driver of that vehicle should be made to pay for it.

yukon expat

Nov 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm

Seat belts save lives. The only person to walk away from this terrible accident was the only one wearing a seat belt. I agree with the courts decision.

bobby bitman

Nov 13, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Both of the injured were drinking beer with the driver at the restaurant.  Both got into the car with this driver.  Neither asked the driver to slow down.  There is not enough evidence to convict the driver of driving over .08.  It seems that some people believe the driver should ‘suffer’ because the others were injured.  I believe the law should be applied the same as it would be under any drunk driving charge.  All of them were involved, all of them participated in the risks.  The driver is not innocent, but if he cannot be convicted of drunk driving due to lack of evidence, the fact that the others were badly injured does not change the law.

Som

Nov 15, 2012 at 10:03 pm

And justice was done.

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