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Driving while under influence of marijuana earns ban, fine

Operating a vehicle while impaired by marijuana has resulted in a fine and driving ban for a Brandon man.

Crown attorney Rich Lonstrup said it’s understandable, perhaps, when someone drinks too much and misjudges their ability to drive.

It’s not so understandable when their driving is impaired by an illegal drug, Lonstrup said.

“Not a lot of sympathy, as such, attaches to someone who is doing an illegal activity to begin with,” Lonstrup said during sentencing in Brandon court on Monday.

Drunk driving is all too common in Westman, but a case of driving while on drugs is relatively rare for the Brandon court.

Luke Mintenko, 28, stood trial on Jan. 6, and Judge Donovan Dvorak delivered his verdict on Monday. The judge found Mintenko guilty of impaired driving and outlined his findings.

Dvorak described how Mintenko, a Brandon resident at the time, was pulled over in Virden in the early morning of Nov. 17, 2012.

A police officer testified that he’d seen Mintenko’s vehicle wander across the centre line into the oncoming lane three times.

Police observed that Mintenko had bloodshot eyes, swayed as he walked, his head was bobbing and his eyes were nearly closed. Mintenko also had slurred speech and smelled of liquor, officers testified.

A cannabis pipe was spotted in a cubbyhole in the dashboard of the vehicle.

Mintenko told police that he’d drank a number of beers at some point, and taken some cocaine early in the previous afternoon.

He’d also smoked marijuana about two hours prior to being pulled over.

Back at the RCMP detachment, tests of Mintenko’s breath showed that he had zero blood-alcohol content.

During his trial, an RCMP forensic toxicologist described the effect of cannabis use on driving.

A driver who has smoked pot can have difficulty with concentration and decision-making, experience perceptual distortion of time and space and have trouble maintaining lane position and distance from other vehicles.

The cocaine use 12 to 13 hours prior wouldn’t affect Mintenko’s ability to drive, the expert said. Dvorak said it’s likely the effects of any alcohol had worn off by the time Mintenko drove.

But the expert had testified that the effects of marijuana last three to five hours — so the bowl of marijuana smoked by Mintenko in the hours before he was stopped would still have an influence on him at the time of driving.

Trouble with lane position while driving is a distinct symptom of cannabis use, the expert had testified.

“I have no doubt that Mr. Mintenko’s ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired by a drug when he was stopped by police,” Dvorak concluded during Monday’s court proceedings.

Dvorak fined Mintenko $1,500 and banned him from driving for 15 months.

» ihitchen@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 11, 2014

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Operating a vehicle while impaired by marijuana has resulted in a fine and driving ban for a Brandon man.

Crown attorney Rich Lonstrup said it’s understandable, perhaps, when someone drinks too much and misjudges their ability to drive.

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Operating a vehicle while impaired by marijuana has resulted in a fine and driving ban for a Brandon man.

Crown attorney Rich Lonstrup said it’s understandable, perhaps, when someone drinks too much and misjudges their ability to drive.

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