What’s the first thing you think when you hear that one British Columbia woman has had 19 impaired driving prohibitions in the past seven years? It’s the kind of news that stops you in your tracks, if only because the number of offenses is so incredible. What’s even more incredible is that after this 19th infraction, the offender did not receive jail time.
Victoria, BC resident Suzanne Gurnell has wracked up an astounding number of impaired driving offenses, and was most recently arrested when she swerved toward an RCMP car at 4 am. According to RCMP, they didn’t even need to use a breathalyzer as she was so intoxicated she failed all field sobriety tests.
Although Crown Council tried to use her existing record as an aggravating factor in her sentencing, she walked away without jail time for her most recent impaired driving charge. The penalties she did receive include a curfew and a complete driving suspension. She’ll also have to continue counseling and rehabilitation.
In this case, the light sentence was given because the offender was driving herself to the hospital for treatment after an incident of abuse, but by all accounts this is a special case. British Columbia specifically changed their impaired driving laws in 2010 to deal with all offenders, especially those who repeatedly break the law by driving impaired.
At a minimum, a first impaired driving offender in British Columbia will receive an immediate driver’s license suspension for 90 days, vehicle impoundment for 30 days, fines payable up to $500, and the possibility of an ignition interlock installation. Although there is no jail time for a first offender, a third time offender will be required to spend a minimum of 120 days in prison.
At the end of the day, it’s what could have happened that’s troubling – in all the times the offender drove drunk, it’s amazing she didn’t injure or kill an innocent person. Let’s hope 19 times the charm and rehabilitation, license suspension, and an ignition interlock keep this drunk driver off the roads.