Debate over punishment of a man who chugged 48 cans of Wild Turkey bourbon and drove his car

A YOUNG driver who chugged 48 cans of Wild Turkey bourbon, beer, rum and cask wine before taking the wheel has left the community at odds over his “questionable” punishment.

West Wyalong magistrate Peter Dare fined Mitchell Smith, 21, just $500 recently after he blew a roadside reading more than five times the legal limit on Bourke Street, Turvey Park. 

Based on the amount of liquor Smith consumed, an Alcohol Help Centre calculator suggested he should have “died from paralysis of the diaphragm or from respiratory arrest.” 

Instead, he was on his way to buy a pack of cigarettes. 

Lockhart councillor Jim Morgan, who was touched by the road toll after the death of his beloved nephew, has condemned Smith’s “slap on the wrist”. 

He said the light consequence will have little deterrence on the 21-year-old’s behaviour. 

“Losing $500 isn’t much of a life-changing experience,” he said. 

“When you lose someone you love, someone you can never see again – that changes you forever.

“This is another example of the justice system letting us down.” 

As police approached Smith’s car on New Year’s Day, he told officers: “I’m f*cked, take my licence”. 

The 21-year-old thought he would be okay “because he was a good driver”.

However, his solicitor Pat O’Kane said his client has since bravely “faced the music”. 

“He knows he’s done wrong and shouldn’t have been driving,” Mr O’Kane said.

“He’s treated this quite seriously and done the traffic offenders course and realises he’ll be off the road for quite some time.” 

Along with the fine, Smith will have to serve a 12-month license disqualification and will have his car fitted with an interlock for 24-months. 

PCYC traffic offenders program facilitator Jon Morgan admitted that while the fine was on the “light” end of the spectrum, the interlock will set Smith back thousands of dollars. 

“There’s a probability to rehabilitate the guy so you don’t want to lock him up and turn him into a life-long criminal,” he said.

“While it appears light, the interlock is quite an expensive and substantial thing to have implemented.

“I believe they’re about $4000 so he won’t be getting off easy.”

He said the low fine may have been justified by exceptional circumstances unknown to the public.

“There’s no point giving someone a massive fine if they can’t pay it,” he said. 

Magistrate Dare also found Smith guilty of disobeying a left turn only sign, but ordered no punishment under Section 10 (A).