An intoxicated driver who is the sole carer for his ill partner has been handed a lighter sentence after crashing a vehicle while nearly four times over the legal limit.
Landscape gardener Danny Novak, 62, appeared in Masterton District Court last week facing charges for careless driving and driving with excess breath alcohol.
He was also charged with driving contrary to the terms of an alcohol interlock license, where the driver can only get behind the wheel of a vehicle fitted with an alcohol interlock device.
The breath testing hardware is wired into the car’s starting system and requires the driver to blow into the device when starting the car. If alcohol is detected, the car won’t start.
After an argument with his wife in April, Novak took his wife’s car [as his was fitted with the interlock device] and drove it down Carverthen St where he proceeded to crash into a caravan.
A breath test returned an alcohol reading of 947 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath, whereas the legal limit is 250.
Defence counsel Lucie Scott said Novak is the sole carer for his wife, who has Parkinson’s disease.
She said that since the crash he had stopped drinking and self-referred himself to addiction and mental health service Pathways.
“He has abstained from alcohol since April, and he’s not smoking either. Things have never been this positive for his health,” Scott said.
“He’s now the sole carer for her [Novak’s wife], and she’s extremely unwell. She has Parkinson’s disease and is in the hospital now.”
Scott said Novak had already paid the victim $7800 so no reparation was sought.
Novak told Judge Barbara Morris that he usually drove his wife to her medical appointments because “she isn’t strong enough in the hands to drive”.
Referencing Novak’s eight prior convictions for drink driving, Morris said those who repeatedly drink drive are more likely to feature in prominent crashes.
“You were just under four times the legal limit. Then you chose to get into a car at your house without the device because you knew your car would not work,” Morris said.
“Then you drove and crashed into a caravan. Fortunately, you didn’t crash into a car coming toward you, divided only by the painted white line.”
Taking a softer tone, Morris acknowledged the defendant’s relationship stress was “no doubt caused by your wife’s severe illness”.
She then turned to the matters that were to Novak’s credit.
“You’ve reached the point realising you simply can’t drink alcohol at all. You’ve self-referred to Pathways, you haven’t just done this cynically, you’ve dug deep and are doing very well at turning your life around,” Morris said.
“These steps to deal with addiction have saved you from imprisonment today.”
Novak was sentenced to six months of community detention, and a 12-month supervision period.
He is required to continue with counselling and take part in the local Driving Forward Programme for recidivist drink drivers.
He was disqualified from driving for 28 days, after which he can reapply for his alcohol interlock license so he can assist his wife with medical appointments.
Morris said Novak would be able to apply for a zero alcohol license after a year.
“Sadly, if you are back here for drunk driving, there will be no other option … it will be imprisonment,” Morris said.
“I’m sure you won’t need to worry about that in light of the other steps you have taken.”