By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on January 17, 2024.
A Lethbridge man who was caught drunk driving last year has been hit with an unusually hefty fine.
Donald Harry Higgins, who was charged with impaired driving, driving with an alcohol level over the legal limit, and dangerous driving, pleaded guilty Tuesday in Lethbridge court of justice to only one of the charges; driving with an alcohol level over the legal limit. He was fined $5,200, including a victim fine surcharge, and prohibited from driving for two years.
At about 11 p.m. on Sept. 8, a Lethbridge police officer was in the area of 18 Avenue and 23 Street North to assist with a hit and run, when he saw a black Silverado pick-up truck driven by Higgins turn north onto 23 Street. The vehicle crossed over the centre line then abruptly corrected itself, nearly colliding with a parked vehicle.
The officer activated his emergency lights, the but the truck continued driving and swerving into the opposing lane before turning east onto another street and driving into the wrong lane. Higgins sped up to about 60 km/h and refused to pull over for the officer. Just as the officer turned off his lights to end the pursuit, Higgins stopped in the middle of the road, then turned into a driveway.
While speaking to the driver, the officer could smell the strong odor of alcohol and noted Higgins had glossy eyes, slurred speech and slow movements, and he was obviously impaired.
When the officer told Higgins he was under arrest for impaired driving, Higgins “slurred derogatory comments” at the officer and refused to provide a breath sample. He provided two breath samples at the police station, however, the lowest reading of which showed a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit.
Crown Prosecutor Marshall Gourlay told court that even though Higgins has a criminal record, his last conviction was 14 years ago. Gourlay pointed out, however, that Higgins has several convictions before 2010, including a conviction in 2009 for refusing to provide a breath sample, for which he was fined $1,100 and prohibited from driving for one year. The following year he was convicted of impaired driving and fined $1,750 and prohibited from driving for two years.
Defence agreed with the recommendation for the fine, and noted the Crown could have recommended a four-month jail sentence.
“So this is definitely to Mr. Higgins’ benefit,” Lethbridge lawyer Greg White said.