After drunkenly stealing a Yellowknife taxi and winding up stuck in the snow 20 ft. off the Mackenzie Highway, Steven Paul Lafferty was sentenced Wednesday on charges of dangerous driving, driving while intoxicated and theft of a motor vehicle.
On Dec. 14, 2019, Lafferty was not able to pay his cab fare in downtown Yellowknife. When another set of passengers got into the back seat of the car at about 1:50 a.m. outside the Gold Range bar, they agreed to take Lafferty, sitting next to the driver in the passenger seat, to Boston Pizza.
Lafferty, 31, refused to exit the vehicle when they arrived. The cab-driver responded by trying to remove him by force.
The court heard that there was some pushing between the two men and that the backseat passengers got out of the car and called the RCMP as well as a second cab.
Lafferty then took the taxi’s “topper” – the taxi light on the top of the vehicle – and put it in the snow. He got into the driver’s seat and stepped on the gas as the taxi driver held on to the open car door.
Though the driver eventually let go, Crown Prosecutor Andreas Kuntz told the court he was first dragged along the pavement.
Lafferty was found stuck in the snow about 20 ft. off the road near Fred Henne Territorial Park. When he supplied a breath sample to the RCMP, Lafferty was found to have a blood alcohol concentration of 190 mg per 100 ml of blood – more than twice the legal limit.
In delivering her sentence, Judge Christine Gagnon considered the fact that Lafferty has no prior criminal record and that he is the primary care-giver to his six year-old son.
Defence lawyer Kate Oja told the court that in the year since the incident, Lafferty has made “significant progress.”
She said he began counselling by telephone over the spring and summer months “on his own initiative.” Lafferty hasn’t been entirely sober since the event last December but has “cut down on drinking significantly” Oja said.
She told the court that Lafferty has no memory of the incident and “scared himself quite seriously ,” especially in considering how he may have hindered his ability to raise his child.
On the Crown’s submission that Lafferty serve house arrest, Oja said “even a conditional sentence is not necessary given the work he’s done to ensure he’s not back before the courts.”
Judge Christine Gagnon accepted Oja’s submission of one year probation on top of the $2,000 fine. Lafferty will be barred from operating any kind of motor vehicle for the next year.
She said the events were a result of “bad choices and excessive drinking” but that they seemed “out of character” for Lafferty.
Gagnon found the steps Lafferty has taken in the last year “to address his conduct and ensure this would not happen again” to be mitigating. She said she also takes his son into consideration.
“In this jurisdiction I find it important to encourage parents to be a good parent to children.”