Ok, Steve’s Angry. Why?Here’s why.
A story about fetching coffee for nuns kept a southern Ontario man out of jail yesterday for driving while suspended. Danilo Almendarez, 50, faced the usual penalty of a short stay in custody after admitting he got behind the wheel in March while serving a one-year ban for impaired driving. The defence lawyer hadn’t even finished outlining his client’s background before the judge let him off with a $250 fine. “I don’t think the justice system will break down if every so often you bow to compassion,” Justice Colin Westman said. Almendarez was volunteering at the Spanish Church of God following a drunk-driving conviction when he drove a few kilometres to get coffee for nuns.
Let me explain how this should have worked.
First of all, since this was a case involving an impaired driving conviction, there shouldn’t have been a suspension to begin with. I don’t care what the law says, the law is wrong. I’ll get to that in a minute. But since there was a suspension order and Almendarez violated it, in my world that’s grounds for the permanent driving ban that needs to go with any impaired conviction. In the world in which our fucked beyond repair justice system resides however, that should certainly be grounds for time added to his prohibition as well as a jail stay and a large increase in his fine. I’d say 3 years in prison to make sure he’s not getting coffee for any more church leaders and a $2250 fine should do the trick. But again, that’s what I’d say as a judge. What usually happens in cases like this is exactly what happened here. You get credit for time served, a warning to be a good boy in the future and a good game pat on the ass before you’re free to go out and kill somebody else.
Next, Justice Colin Westman should be fired, or at least reprimanded and served with some real consequences. What he did has nothing to do with bowing to compassion and everything to do with setting a horrible precedent. What he’s expressing through this decision is that it’s perfectly fine to violate the law as long as you do it on behalf of the clergy. I’d agree with that if the guy was trying to save somebody’s life by driving that person to the hospital, but the last time I checked there was no solid medical evidence to vouch for Tim Hortons injections. That, to me, makes this judge incompetent and unfit to preside.
Now let’s get to why the law is wrong. I grew up around alcoholics. I know how they think. And knowing what I know, things need to change. I’ve watched people get their licences taken away, and while they look at it as an inconvenience, it’s a minor one that’s not even their fault. It’s the fault of the cops who caught them. And on the rare occasion when personal responsibility enters into things, it generally comes in the form of I should have been more careful, they’ll never get me again. That doesn’t mean that they’re going to turn over a new leaf, it means they’re going to take different roads home for a few weeks.
The system as it is now is totally flawed. I’ve heard stories of people going to court for their 9th DUI. How can we sit back and accept that that’s just how things work? the 9 people you kill don’t get a 1 year living ban, they’re dead forever. There’s no excuse for such a ridiculous imbalance in favour of the criminals. There’s also no excuse for bowing to compassion, and there’s no place in the legal system for judges who do.