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Identity crisis gets alleged drunk driver acquitted

March 20, 2014 - 11:15 AM

VERNON - Gurinder Pal Singh Bajwa either has a doppelganger with the same name, or a clever defense lawyer.

Bajwa, 46, has been in custody since his arrest Nov. 28, 2013 in Lumby for impaired driving and refusing to provide a breath sample. Represented by defense lawyer Julian van der Walle, Bajwa also faced counts of driving while unqualified and breaching recognizance conditions related to earlier charges. The problem was, Provincial Court Judge Lisa Wyatt wasn’t sure beyond a reasonable doubt that the man standing in court was the same person convicted of the former charges.

Wyatt said she was in a “quandary” regarding the evidence on those two charges. The arresting officer obtained Bajwa's immigration card but not his address or license, he said because it was understood the accused didn't have one. Unable to undeniably tie him to the earlier court documents, and adding that the accused’s is a common name, Wyatt acquitted him on both counts.

After his arrest, Bajwa was taken to the Vernon police detachment for a breathalyzer test, but attempts to collect a reading were unsuccessful, at times because he was holding the tube portion of the machine, at others because he wasn’t blowing out. Police told him refusing to give a sample was a crime, and warned him after the fifth attempt that he was on his last chance. Again, Bajwa failed to give a sample and was charged with refusal.

There was some question over the exact time the arresting officer demanded a breath sample from Bajwa, and Wyatt said she was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt the request was made “as soon as reasonably practicable” and deemed the order unlawful.

The witness who called 911 after swerving into a ditch to avoid Bajwa's car said he smelled of booze and police noted his eyes were glassy and his speech slurred, but Wyatt wasn’t satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that his ability to operate the car was impaired by alcohol. He was acquitted on that count as well.

Bajwa maintained a serious expression throughout the decision while a Punjabi translator told him what was happening. He was released Wednesday after more than three months in custody.

Wyatt is new to the judge's chair, appointed this past December. 

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infotelnews.ca or call 250-309-5230.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
InfoTel News Ltd

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