Man avoids breath test by walking away
HAWKE'S BAY REPORTER
A man avoided a drink-driving charge by walking away from police.
But Leon Rerewai Heta, 35, of Hastings, still faced a charge of refusing to accompany an officer, when he appeared in Hastings District Court yesterday.
Heta pleaded guilty to walking away from an officer who was asking him to take a breath-alcohol test on the afternoon of May 26.
Judge David Cameron said that if Heta had been over the legal alcohol limit, "he got away with it". He asked why Heta was not arrested that day.
Senior Sergeant Dean Goodall said "it was very unusual" but could not say why Heta had not been arrested. The officer who had dealt with Heta at the time was overseas.
The court was told that Heta had been driving along Te Aute Rd, near Havelock North, when an officer stopped him for a minor driving offence. Heta got out of the car, locked it and walked off.
The officer asked Heta to take a breath-alcohol test but he said "no" and kept walking.
The officer then warned Heta that he would be arrested if he did not comply. When he did not stop, the officer put his hand on Heta's arm and told him he was under arrest. Heta became agitated but kept walking. Four days later, Heta was arrested. Charges of resisting police, escaping custody and using threatening language were dropped yesterday.
His lawyer, Leo Lafferty, said Heta accepted he acted inappropriately. He was distressed at the time after receiving some bad news.
Judge Cameron fined Heta $500 and disqualified him from driving for six months. He said the higher fine reflected that Heta had refused to comply with police.
Commenting on the case, Auckland lawyer Steve Cullen, who specialises in traffic offences, said it was "very common" for people to run from the scene to avoid taking a breath-screening test but they were often caught.
Refusing to accompany an officer was an "equivalent" offence to a drink-driving charge, Mr Cullen said. "It's just as serious and it's to avoid people doing exactly that."
The charge triggered the same maximum penalty as a high breath and blood alcohol level.
Acting national road policing manager Superintendent Rob Morgan said no-one could be compelled to have a breath-screening test but it was normal practice for police to arrest people who refused to do so.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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