After two hours of deliberations, a jury has convicted Cody Marcus John Pierce of the drink-driving crash that caused fatal injuries to his passenger.
Pierce had denied the charges during a five-day Christchurch District Court trial.
The jury also convicted him of failing to render assistance after the crash into a power pole when the car failed to take a bend near West Melton. He left the crash scene before police arrived and he flew to Queensland's Gold Coast next day, before police could interview him.
Pierce had faced alternative charges. The jury acquitted him on the charge of causing the death of his passenger Sean Christopher Frost by driving when he was under the influence of drink to such an extent that he was incapable of having proper control.
It found him guilty on the lesser charge of causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink.
The Crown had called witnesses from a party he had attended on the afternoon and evening of the fatal crash. He was seen drinking at the party and witnesses described him slurring or staggering, and two women tried to stop him driving away from the barbecue.
The defence said the jury could not be sure from the evidence how much Pierce had had to drink. He said he had consumed four drinks over several hours and was not drunk.
Judge Alistair Garland remanded Pierce for sentence on November 19.
Crown prosecutor Barnaby Hawes said the Crown would push for Pierce to be imprisoned for the offending. The offence of leaving the scene of the crash carried a significant maximum sentence.
Defence counsel Richard Maze asked for bail for Pierce pending sentence. He said Pierce had full time work and family commitments - a partner and child. It was not inevitable that he would be facing a term of imprisonment, rather than home detention.
Judge Garland granted bail, and called for a report on his suitability for home detention.
But he told Pierce: "You must not take that as an indication. You are very likely to receive a term of imprisonment."
He said he granted bail because Pierce had returned voluntarily from Australia to face the prosecution, and because he had not been convicted of the more serious drink-driving related charge.
"Consider yourself fortunate in the meantime," the judge told him.
- The Press