Appeals court fines drunk driver who escaped punishment due to police error

An Appeals court has sentenced a drunk driver to pay a fine of €1,800 as well as suspending his driving licence for a period of six after the first court acquitted him due to an error in police documentation

An Appeals court has sentenced a drunk driver, Wayne Portelli, to pay a fine of €1,800 and the revocation of his driving license for a period of six months after the first court acquitted him due to an error in police documentation.

In an affidavit released by the police officer who had arraigned the driver, the accused’s ID card number was missing one digit. 

Portelli had told the first court that the proof brought against him in court was erroneous since the ID number on the police statement did not match his. On this basis, the court acquitted him of all charges.

The prosecution appealed, saying that it was aggrieved that a lapsus, a computational error on behalf of one officer, resulted in the accused walking free.

The case goes back to 2 December 2018 when police officers on Piazza Paceville spotted Portelli’s BMW and saw that the license plate was on his dashboard. The two officers approached the vehicle and told the accused that he should install the license plate at the front of his vehicle, that it is a legal requirement.

The officers told the court that upon speaking to Portelli, they noticed a pungent smell of alcohol on his breath and that he was slurring his words. 

When asked to turn off the engine and step out of the vehicle, Portelli claimed that he did not know where his car keys were. He also said that he could not find his documentation and that he had lost his ID card. 

Portelli refused to submit himself to a breathalyser test.

The officers in question used the Police Incident Reporting System (PIRS) to identify the accused on the spot. Portelli confirmed his identity when the officers printed a receipt for a breathalyser test and he signed the paper.

The Appeals court confirmed that Portelli’s ID number was always listed correctly, including in court documentation summoning him to hearings and on the police charge sheet. The only instance when this was erroneous was in the police statement presented to the court.

The court presided over by Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera, said that the error on the affidavit was simply a lapsus calami and that in other documentation, including the receipt which the accused had signed, the ID number referred to the correct individual being accused.

For that reason, the Appeals court revoked the sentence of the first court and sentenced Portelli to pay a fine of €1,800 and was disqualified from having a driving license for a period of six months.