PENTICTON - A Penticton judge will decide the case of a prohibited driver who claims she drove while intoxicated out of necessity to escape a situation in which she could have come to possible harm.
Lawyers for defence and the Crown gave their submissions to Judge Gregory Koturbash in Penticton court today, Dec. 12, arguing the validity of charges stemming from an incident that took place on July 30, 2015.
Crown prosecutor Ann Lerechs told court, Shannon Leigh Mcmichael admitted to one count of impaired driving and one count of driving while prohibited, after her relationship with her boyfriend turned abusive late in the evening that day.
Police attended the Churchill Avenue address after complaints from neighbours. They arrived to find the two arguing, in what one officer described later as “a bad breakup.” Mcmichael’s boyfriend had tossed some of her items out of the residence, a laptop in particular ending up on the building’s balcony.
Mcmichael was told by police to leave the residence, which she neither owned or rented, and get a ride to a friend or family member’s residence after a check of the vehicle parked in the driveway identified Mcmichael as the owner and prohibited driver of the vehicle.
She went to a friend’s house located on Caribou Street, only to leave that residence and make a 10 minute walk back to her boyfriend’s to retrieve her belongings, which had been left unattended. She picked up her laptop, intending to put them in her vehicle, where she felt it would be safe, apparently with the intention of leaving the vehicle and returning to her friend’s house. However, when she realized her boyfriend wasn’t home, she decided to enter the residence and gather up some of her other belongings.
Her boyfriend returned while she was still in the residence and the argument resumed. Her partner, described as physically fit and athletic, threw a futon frame at her at one point, missing her and denting her vehicle. According to witnesses, she then fled the scene in her vehicle, “peeling” out of the alleyway.
Police were called once again and Mcmichael was spotted on Eckhardt Avenue just as she was turning onto Argyle Street.
Defence lawyer Don Skogstad argued his client felt at the time her only option to escape possible harm at the hands of her boyfriend was to drive away, as she felt he would soon catch up to her had she tried to run away on foot.
Skogstad said the dent in her client’s vehicle was justification of her fear she would be harmed by her boyfriend, and that her original intention in returning to deal with her property was a sensible thing to do. He said his client, under the stress of the situation, may not have been totally calm and rational in driving several blocks from the scene, but likened her reaction to a form of self defence where excessive force is used.
Crown prosecutor Lerechs said Mcmichael had other alternatives at her disposal, including calling for help, using her phone, locking herself in her car, and going to a more crowded area. She noted the neighbourhood was close to a busy section of Lakeshore Drive with a number of bars, restaurants and motels nearby.
Lerechs said Mcmichael’s “defence of necessity" didn’t apply, noting it was Mcmichael who put herself back in harm’s way by returning almost immediately upon reaching a safe place, in Lerech’s opinion, in order to retrieve her vehicle and drive home.
Judge Koturbash will render his decision at a future court appearance following scheduling by the judicial case manager.
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