Drunk driving costs Winnipeg police officer $1.3K fine, licence for 1 year
Veteran member of force Jason Garrett, 50, pleads guilty to driving while impaired
A Winnipeg police officer will be consigned to desk duty for at least another year after losing his licence for 12 months and getting hit with a fine for driving while drunk last year.
Jason Garrett, a street supervisor now entering his 30th year with the Winnipeg Police Service, pleaded guilty Thursday to driving while impaired.
Provincial court Judge Kelly Moar imposed the minimum suspension of one year without a licence and fined Garrett $1,300.
"The incident that occurred that night was a terrible error in judgment on my part," said Garrett, representing himself in court.
"I didn't believe that I was over the legal limit and I thank God every day that I didn't hurt anybody or hurt myself or cause any damage."
Garrett is one of five Winnipeg police officers charged with drunk driving last year, including a high-profile case in which a 23-year-old died last year.
Const. Justin Holz was charged with driving while intoxicated, along with other offences, in connection with a hit and run that killed Cody Severight.
In another case, Andrew Tighe, a 23-year member of the force, was found not guilty of impaired driving in August.
'I am one of you'
Stonewall RCMP pulled Garrett over in the rural municipality of Woodlands on Feb. 18, 2017, after receiving a complaint about a green truck.
Mounties saw a green 2003 Ford F-250 pickup truck swerving on Highway 6, between Grosse Isle and Warren, about 30 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
It's embarrassing. I am a member of the law enforcement community- Jason Garrett
"Police could smell an odour of liquor on his breath and his speech was slightly slurred. He continued to fumble through his wallet when police asked for identification and eventually showed a Winnipeg Police Service business card. He indicated, 'I am one of you.'"
RCMP arrested Garrett, whose first of two breathalyzer samples came in at 130 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres, followed by a lower second reading of 110 mg.
He received an automatic three-month licence suspension and was charged with driving while impaired and driving with a blood alcohol content over 0.08, or 80 mg per 100 mL. The latter charge was stayed by the judge on Thursday.
Garrett told court the Winnipeg Police Service took him off the street and put him on administrative duty after that, where he remains today.
Evans said the Crown had "a strong case" and was going easy on Garrett in asking for a fine of $1,400 and a one-year driving suspension, considering other cases involving police and public servants caught drunk behind the wheel.
Former Manitoba judge Michel Chartier, who stepped down after his arrest, was fined $2,000 and given a one-year licence suspension in 2016; Saskatchewan RCMP Const. Baba Sar lost his licence for 18 months and received a $3,250 fine in 2014; and veteran RCMP Cpl. Scott Hanson was hit with a $2,400 fine and one-year driving suspension in May.
Garrett has no prior criminal record and has moved from his home 65 kilometres outside of the city into Winnipeg since losing his licence, mitigating circumstances that played into the penalties Evans asked for.
We involved in the public service accept this idea that we are ... to be held to a higher standard.- Judge Kelly Moar
"He saved the court time by entering his plea without the need to have a contested trial, which would've taken other police officers off the street for a further amount of time, and we suggest that deserves recognition," Evans said.
The Crown also took into consideration the fact that Garrett's ill wife is largely dependent on him for care and the loss of his licence will make that more challenging.
The licence prohibition will also cost him income from his part-time business, which required him to drive all-terrain vehicles and boats, Evans said.
'Doubt you'll ever be back'
Garrett said the police force also will dock him a "substantial fine" of 10 to 15 days' pay.
"It's embarrassing," Garrett told the judge.
"I am a member of the law enforcement community and I do apologize for my actions. It sets a poor example, and I've reached out not only personally to my children but to other people in saying that your licence is a privilege, it's not a right, and you need to be very respectful of it."
In delivering the one-year driving suspension and $1,300 fine, Moar said he believes Garrett is remorseful and has accepted responsibility for his actions.
"It's a situation where we involved in the public service accept this idea that we are at a higher standard, to be held to a higher standard, and more particularly with you being in law enforcement," Moar said.
"You'll learn from it and, given your history, I doubt you'll ever be back before the courts again."