With God on His Side
American Evangelist Jason Hooper made waves in the media some time ago, but not as a result of any activities in the pulpit. Mr Hooper was charged with driving with High Range PCA after recording a breathalyser reading of .206, more than four times the legal limit.
Mr Hooper had obviously drunk a significant amount of alcohol and made the decision to drive. He was on his way to Coffs Harbour after drinking in Kempsey and made it half way before crashing into a parked car. Police found him a short distance from the vehicle.
Mr Hooper was issued with a Court Attendance Notice and appeared before Local Court Magistrate Wayne Evans some weeks later.
Pleading forgiveness from God and stating that he was suffering from ministerial pressure and stress at the time of the incident, Mr Hooper appealed to Magistrate Evans for leniency. He received this and was placed on a good behaviour bond for two years and banned from driving on NSW roads for two years.
Of course such a penalty is relatively meaningless for an individual who will not be in Australia for any significant period of time. Indeed if you consider the high reading and damage to property that Mr Hooper caused he was lucky to escape a significant fine and/or gaol term.
In making his decision the Magistrate noted that Mr Hooper was suffering financial and other pressures and had “things weighting on his mind”.
It is generally the case that many people who come before Courts in drink driving matters also have significant issues that they can identify as contributory to their decision to drive while under the influence. It is important to recognise that irrespective of Mr Hooper’s status he is very fortunate to have escaped significant penalty for this matter.
The maximum penalties for High Range drink driving are a fine of $3300, three years licence disqualification (with a minimum disqualification period of 12 months) and imprisonment of up to 18 months.
Such sentences reflect the fact that it is of significant concern to the community when people drink to that degree of excess and drive.
Indeed Mr Hooper is fortunate not to have caused more serious damage to pedestrians and/or any other individuals who were on the road on the evening in question.
While he may believe that he had God on his side and certainly did receive a relatively lenient sentence, it must recognised that such a case represents the exception rather than the rule. It ought not be considered that this case represents the norm in this area of law.
Other drink drivers will be unlikely to receive a similar degree of leniency from the court system.