It may have seemed like police had sniffed out a drunk driver, but in the end, Patrick Charles O'Grady was cleared of impaired-related charges.
O'Grady was accused of driving drunk with his three children in the car when it swerved off the road and crashed.
But in Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John's Friday, O'Grady was found not guilty of impaired driving causing bodily harm, failing the breathalyzer and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Justice Wayne Dymond did convict O'Grady of dangerous driving, an offence that was part of the third charge.
The judge said it was possible the car's brakes did malfunction, as O'Grady said he suspected, but based on the evidence from the witnesses, the judge said it was clear O'Grady was speeding.
However, Dymond said there was insufficient evidence to suggest O'Grady was impaired at the time of the crash.
Witnesses at the scene of the crash and police officers, who visited O'Grady's house later, all testified during the trial they detected an odour of alcohol on O'Grady's breath. However, the judge pointed out smell alone is not enough proof to convict.
"There are some forms of alcohol that have no odour," Dymond said. "So it is impossible to corroborate consumption or volume on smell alone."
The accident happened at about 2:25 p.m., Aug. 1, 2010.
O'Grady was behind the wheel of his Honda CRV, driving on Portugal Cove Road in Portugal Cove, when he lost control and swerved off the road while making a turn on the winding road.
The car slammed into a pillar on the side of the road and spun back into a residential driveway before coming to a sudden stop.
O'Grady's nine-year-old daughter, and his two sons, ages 11 and 12, were shaken by the incident.
The girl was visibly upset, crying loudly. She suffered cuts and bruises, along with a neck injury, while one of the boys was also cut and bruised. He injured his chest from the seatbelt when it tightened on impact. The other boy was relatively uninjured.
O'Grady turned down offers from witnesses to call an ambulance for the children.
He opted to leave the car, while he and his children obtained a ride back to his house.
O'Grady told the court that before the crash, he drank three O'Doul's non-alcoholic beers. His lawyer, Michelle Elliott, pointed out the odour might have been mistaken for that of the non-alcoholic beers, which the judge, himself had sniffed and concluded had "a distinct ale smell."
O'Grady said he consumed three alcoholic beers after he got home, and that's when the RNC officers showed up and gave him the breathalyzer - hours after the crash.
A sentencing hearing for the dangerous driving conviction will be held March 7.
The children's mother looked grim as she walked out of the courtroom following proceedings. She declined reporters' requests for an interview.
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