Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's lawyer pleads guilty to 3rd impaired driving charge

A prominent St. John's lawyer facing his third impaired driving charge has changed his plea from not guilty to guilty.

Jeff Brace changed his plea to guilty to the charge of exceeding the legal limit of blood alcohol

Jeff Brace appeared in court Wednesday to face his third impaired driving charge. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

A prominent St, John's lawyer facing his third impaired driving charge has changed his plea to guilty, after initially pleading not guilty.

Jeff Brace appeared in court in St. John's Wednesday. His lawyer, Bob Simmonds, said Brace has admitted guilt to the specific charge of exceeding the legal limit of alcohol in his blood when he was given a breathalyzer test after he was stopped in September 2016.

We don't want to see someone else lose a loved one to someone else's selfish act.- Patricia Hynes-Coates, MADD national president

Brace is due back in court on Dec. 1 for a pre-sentencing hearing, and then a sentencing hearing in January. It's expected defence and Crown lawyers will submit a joint recommendation to the court outlining what they agree would be an appropriate sentence.

Conviction on a third impaired driving charge can result in a sentence that includes jail time.

Previous convictions

In 2011, Brace was charged with impaired driving after he crashed his motorcycle in downtown St. John's. He was badly injured.

He initially pleaded not guilty, but changed that plea, too. He was fined $1,200 and lost his licence for a year.

Brace had a previous impaired conviction from 1997.  At that time, he was fined $600 and also lost his licence for a year. 

MADD: Brace should be held to higher standard

The stepmother of a man who was killed by a drunk driver attended Brace's hearing Wednesday. Patricia Hynes-Coates, who is now the national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), said she will continue to follow Brace's case closely.

"We're curious to see how this particular trial will move forward," said Hynes-Coates. Her 27-year-old stepson, Nick Coates, was hit and killed by a drunk driver in 2013.

"We know that good people make bad choices, but we do believe that a third-time offender should be held to the proper standards by the law. We don't want to see someone else lose a loved one by someone else's selfish act," she said.

Patricia Hynes-Coates says Brace should be held to a higher standard due to his number of offences and his profession. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

Hynes-Coates said she would lose her position with MADD if she were convicted of impaired driving.

"As a lawyer who is defending people for impaired driving, he should be held to a higher standard."

Brace is currently representing two men accused in two murder trials that are currently before the courts — Brandon Phillips, who is charged with killing a man at the Captain's Quarters Hotel in St. John's in 2015 and Paul Connolly, one of four men accused of murdering Steven Miller in Conception Bay South in 2016. 

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