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Man's blood alcohol level attracts triple fine

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 08/9/2017 11:00 AM

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A provincial court judge was prompted to reflect on the high number of impaired driving incidents in Steinbach after sentencing a man whose blood alcohol content was found to be precisely three times the legal limit when he was pulled over this past spring.

Barry Warkentin was given a correspondingly high fine by Judge Ken Champagne in a Steinbach provincial courtroom last week. He will have 18 months to pay a total of $3,900 in fines and surcharges, and must also abide by a one-year driving prohibition. Manitoba Public Insurance will likely impose an additional driving suspension, Champagne said.

A recent divorce drove Warkentin, 43, to seek solace in alcohol during the Summer in the City weekend, the court heard. Shortly after 11 p.m. on June 18, Steinbach RCMP received a call from lounge staff at Smitty’s Family Restaurant, who informed them Warkentin had arrived intoxicated, refused a taxi ride, and departed without paying his $40 tab.

Minutes later, Warkentin’s Volkswagen Jetta was located on Highway 12, weaving in and out of its lane. Warkentin, the sole occupant, denied he had been drinking, but handed the officer a debit card when asked to produce his driver’s licence, said Crown attorney Kristee Logan. The vehicle was found to be unregistered, and Warkentin was without a valid licence, Logan explained. Samples taken later that night at the Steinbach RCMP detachment contained 240 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

Choosing to forego legal counsel in order to deal with the matter promptly, Warkentin pleaded guilty to driving with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit. Logan noted Warkentin had to prior criminal record, but had failed to appear in court last month. In 2015, he received a speeding ticket, and was fined $200 for driving without a valid licence earlier this year.

"I’m at your mercy, your honour," Warkentin said as he stood before Champagne. "I just want to get this behind me because this has been a big wake-up call."

Noting the St Adolphe resident posed a danger to other people on the roadway that night, Logan asked for a fine higher than the mandatory minimum of $1,000.

"Your readings are extremely high. You were very intoxicated, and I think it’s fair to call you falling-down drunk on that day," Champagne told Warkentin. "Turning to alcohol to ease the pain is never a good idea."

While the judge drilled into Warkentin the importance of sober driving, he also reflected on impaired driving in the community at large.

"It is, to me…shocking how often I’m having this discussion with people like yourself in this community, for this offence. The number of drinking and driving charges in this community is very high," said Champagne. "This is far from acceptable. This is criminal, and it’s dangerous. We can’t have it going on."

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