Woman pleads guilty to breathalyzer charges

Rosie Mullaley rmullaley@thetelegram.com
Published on April 28, 2014
Sheriffs officers escort Dianne Bell from provincial court today after she appeared on two charges of impaired driving laid against her on the same day. — Photo by Rosie Gillingham/The Telegram

A woman who drove drunk three times — twice in one day — has pleaded guilty to charges laid against her.

Dianne Bell, 62, was in provincial court in St. John’s today for what was supposed to be a trial. However, defence lawyer Mark Gruchy told Judge Jim Walsh his client has opted to have the case settled.

He said Bell has agreed to plead guilty to two counts of failing the breathalyzer and one count of refusing the breathalyzer. Crown prosecutor Jennifer Colford agreed to withdraw impaired driving charges in exchange for the guilty pleas.

The charges stem from three separate incidents in 2010.

Each time, Bell was caught after being reported to police by employees at the Newfound Liquor Corporation (NLC) store on Stavanger Drive.

The first time, on Jan. 11, staff saw her pull up to the store and refused to serve her because she was so drunk. She was escorted to the manager’s office, where the police were called. Once officers arrived, Bell refused requests to take the breathalyzer test because she said she would fail it.

She was charged and released from custody with the promise to appear in court.

Three months later, on April 25, she was arrested twice.

At around 2:20 p.m., NLC employees called the police after Bell drove away from the liquor store. They had noticed she was intoxicated and had refused to serve her, but Bell left. They noted her licence plate number and reported it to police, who arrested Bell at her house shortly afterwards.

Once again, she was released with a new court date.

But just over two hours later, she was back at the store, where she was again turned away. She again left in her car and staff called police.

Officers showed up to her house again, but this time, took her into custody.

She was granted bail the next day with the conditions that she abstain from alcohol and not drive.

The judge expressed concern at the time it’s taken to resolve the case. He pointed out that the matter had been set for trial four times. Gruchy said they had been waiting on a medical report and handed Walsh a letter that provided an explanation.

Gruchy said Bell “fell through the cracks” in the medical system and that’s why it’s taken so long.

“It’s very complex,” said Gruchy, who didn’t publically say what Bell’s medical condition was.

Colford said the letter has affected how the Crown will proceed with the prosecution. It’s expected it will be a summary case, in which a lighter sentence is requested.

Walsh told Gruchy if he finds himself in the same situation in the future, it would be best to subpoena the medical information.

Gruchy asked for a pre-sentence report for Bell.

Sentencing has been set for July 22.