A life lost and a life destroyed

When drunk driving causing death involves a friend

A life lost and a life destroyed

Brian Tobin and wife Jodean leave court in Ottawa with son Jack, who is charged with impaired driving causing death | Pawel Dwulit/CP

Adam Rabolt and Darren McMullin were both 25-year-old labourers from small-town Shelburne, Ont., and had been best friends since the third grade. On the night of June 15, 2007, Rabolt, who had had a few beers that day while playing in a local golf tournament, was roused from a nap by McMullin, who had also been drinking and who persuaded his buddy to go out on the town. The two friends climbed into Rabolt’s Ford Focus and headed for a strip club about an hour and a half away in Vaughan, just north of Toronto. Some hours later, while driving home on Highway 400, Rabolt’s Ford left the road, travelled across a grassy shoulder and slammed into a grove of trees. Rabolt walked away; McMullin, who was not wearing a seat belt, died at the scene.

When police administered a breath test, Rabolt blew over twice the legal limit. He was later convicted of impaired operation of a motor vehicle causing death and operation of a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration exceeding 80 mg. In considering an appropriate sentence, Justice Cary Boswell faced a myriad of options. There is no mandatory punishment for fatal drunk driving cases, and sentences have ranged anywhere from a few months of house arrest to life behind bars. The Crown sought at least three years in prison, while Rabolt’s lawyer asked for a conditional sentence: two years less a day, to be served in the community.

Yet there was a complicating factor. Instead of siding with prosecutors, McMullin’s mother and two sisters asked for leniency. Rabolt “is like a son and brother to them,” Boswell later wrote in his reasons for sentencing. “They want and need his presence with them at this difficult time in their lives. They say they cannot suffer through the loss of another family member, should he be sentenced to a period of incarceration. They have forgiven him.”

So close was Rabolt to the McMullin family that he grew up calling McMullin’s mother Brenda “mum.” When Brenda attempted to post bail for Rabolt, the Crown prosecutor moved to prevent it—something she resents to this day. “Because I wasn’t willing to crucify this kid, he didn’t want to give me the time of day,” she says of the Crown. “If I would have wanted to put Adam in a noose, he would have been my best friend.” When Rabolt did make bail, he walked into a crowd filled with members of his family and McMullin’s. Rabolt went directly to Brenda and fell into her arms. “When it all happened I was sitting in the police station and I just wanted to die right there,” Rabolt tells Maclean’s. “I didn’t even want to exist anymore. If it wasn’t for Darren’s family, I’d still feel that way. I’d probably just be living life as a ghost.”

Despite the McMullins’s pleas, the judge handed Rabolt 30 months in prison.

The case is eerily similar to one now making headlines—that of John Joseph “Jack” Tobin, the 24-year-old son of former Liberal cabinet minister and Newfoundland premier Brian Tobin, who stands charged in connection with the impaired driving death of one of his closest friends, Alex Zolpis, also 24. High school classmates and one-time roommates during their studies at Dalhousie University, Zolpis and Tobin were living in Calgary and Toronto respectively but had returned to Ottawa for the holidays. Though the details remain murky, Zolpis and Tobin had apparently been drinking in Ottawa’s ByWard Market when they emerged from a bar and walked across the street to a multi-level parkade and Tobin’s rented Dodge Ram pickup truck.

According to early reports, police said Tobin had been stunt driving on the fifth, uncovered floor of the parkade when Zolpis, who was a passenger, somehow became pinned under the truck just before 3 a.m. on Christmas Eve (Tobin’s lawyer disputes this account). One resident of a condo overlooking a portion of the parkade told Maclean’s that he heard moaning and slurred screaming.

Tobin is now charged with several offences, including impaired driving causing death—the death of the same friend who, three years earlier, supported Tobin through a near-fatal knife wound he received while working as a security guard at a Halifax dance. Testifying at the sentencing hearing of the teen who’d pleaded guilty to attempting to murder him, Tobin spoke of how the ordeal, which took a third of his liver, had left him with “a greater appreciation for life and how quickly it can be taken from you.”

Now the Zolpis family must struggle with two painful realities: the death of a son and the prospect that he was killed by one of his closest friends. A life lost and a life destroyed. Sadly, in the annals of Canadian case law, Tobin and Rabolt are just two of many. And while the Zolpis family has not commented publicly on their tragedy beyond describing the death as the result of an “accident” in an obituary, they would not be alone if they chose to support their dead son’s friend through the criminal justice system. Many grieving relatives—people who have experienced what the Zolpis family is suffering through—have asked the courts for mercy.

Kevin Magnuson is one of them. Seven years ago, his father Keith—the legendary Chicago Blackhawks defenceman—was killed in a horrific crash near Toronto. The man behind the wheel was Rob Ramage, his dad’s close friend and a former captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The pair had just left a funeral reception at a golf course and were on their way to a meeting of the NHL Alumni Association when their rental car veered into oncoming traffic, collided with two other vehicles and ricocheted into a guardrail.

According to police, Ramage’s blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit, akin to someone who had consumed 15 to 20 beers. He was charged with five offences, including impaired driving causing death. “Obviously, there was shock at first, then anger for maybe a day,” Kevin recalls now. “But since then, every decision we’ve made as a family has revolved around: what would dad want us to do? He would want us to worry about Rob and his family. We know it was an accident, and there is no ill will whatsoever. It very easily could have been dad driving that day and Rob in the passenger seat.”

When Ramage was later convicted on all counts, the Magnusons travelled to Newmarket, Ont., to personally ask the judge not to send Keith’s friend to prison. “We have long ago forgiven Rob for his mistake,” Kevin told the court, flanked by his mother Cindy and sister Molly. “Please understand that as the direct victims of this ‘crime,’ a prison sentence will not be seen as any measure of justice, but will simply exacerbate our pain and create additional victims in Rob’s family.”

Justice Alexander Sosna praised the Magnusons, calling their words “moving and rare.” Yet they weren’t enough to change his mind. Ramage was given four years in jail and, after an unsuccessful appeal, is now serving his term at a Kingston, Ont., prison. “It was very frustrating,” Kevin says. “I know Rob thinks about my dad every day, and that is enough of a punishment.”

In all drunk driving cases, the primary goal of sentencing is general deterrence, not individual rehabilitation. As the Ontario Court of Appeal wrote in a landmark 1985 decision, “every drinking driver is a potential killer,” and the punishment should be tough enough to dissuade other impaired motorists from climbing behind the wheel. Today, most cases involving death or injury result in a custodial sentence of two to five years.

But unlike the Magnusons and the McMullins, some victims have managed to convince a judge to approve house arrest instead of jail time. Twelve years ago, after a night of heavy drinking, Matthew Mould of Hamilton drove his car into a light standard, killing Michael Hackett, his friend and co-worker. Hackett’s wife and parents immediately forgave Mould for the “tragic accident” and pleaded with the judge not to send him to prison. “We hold no grudge against this young man and were moved by his overwhelming sense of grief and his feelings of remorse,” the family wrote. “Forgiveness brings healing and our grief would only be compounded if this young man were given a jail sentence.” The judge agreed, handing Mould a 15-month conditional sentence.

James Carr, an Alberta man, was just as fortunate. Just four months after Ramage went to prison, Carr was handed a two-year conditional term for the drunken rollover that killed his best friend, Blake Levall. In an emotional victim-impact statement, Levall’s parents said they considered their dead son’s friend one of their own children, and begged that Carr not be imprisoned. “I’m going to lose another child,” said James Levall, Blake’s dad. “I’ll be torn apart again.” Said the judge: “Perhaps the greatest punishment James will suffer is that the death of his close friend, and the injury and hurt he has caused to others close to him, will always be with him.”

Jack Tobin is no doubt wrestling with the same demons. His friend is dead and his bail conditions prohibit him from contacting the Zolpis family. But in the months to come, as Tobin’s case reaches a courtroom, one thing is certain: if he is convicted he will spend at least some time in jail. Because of recent amendments to the Criminal Code, conditional sentences no longer apply to crimes involving serious bodily harm, regardless of how forgiving a victim’s family may be. In a case of impaired driving causing death, the type of sentences handed to Matthew Mould and James Carr—and requested by the families of Keith Magnuson and Darren McMullin—are gone. A custodial sentence now means just that: in custody, not house arrest.

Adam Rabolt has served his time: he spent just under a year in prison for his role in Darren McMullin’s death and he is now out on parole. Yet his sentence is so much deeper than a prison term—it will last him the rest of his life. “He wasn’t just my best friend, he was a brother,” he says. “That one buddy who knows everything about you, no matter what—even stuff you forgot, he’s the guy that knows. For me, that’s gone.”


A life lost and a life destroyed

  1. Sucks for sure. But still the Government should definitely maintain strict punishments for Drunk Driving offenses and accidents, despite what lenience the victims families request; It's not only about them anymore, sad as it is. People treat drunk driving like a joke, except when all the sudden its not. Strict sentencing is really one of the few effective tools the Government has at its disposal.

    • Even if the punishment were life in prison, Tobin's friend would still be dead. Punishment can only be a deterrent for premeditated crime and even then, no one commits a crime expecting to be caught.

      • The crime begins when someone gets intoxicated with the intent to drive shortly thereafter. Do you see any premeditation, there? I do.

      • The government is resposible for the deaths from drinking and driving. They sell and control the booze. They know there will be deaths from alcohol.So stop selling booze.They never will,because they made over 3 billion dollars in 2010. MADD is just a propaganda organization to help the government make it appear as if they care.

        • What a ridiculous assertion, that the government is responsible for drunk driving deaths. It's the individual behind the wheel who's responsible, no one else. The government is not his nanny, though you would like it to be and to infantilise the driver and absolve him of his responsibility.

          Your solution is even more ridiculous. Outlaw alcohol for everyone because a small minority of people can't handle it. First, it's unworkable without a totalitarian government (guess you favor that). Have you never heard of the failure of Prohibition and the number of deaths caused by drinking self-distilled moonshine?

  2. Tool for what? What is the government (State) trying to achieve? There is no "deterrence" against people killing their friends in a foolish possibly drunken moment, any more than there may be a deterrence against people killing their children in similar circumstances.

    Jail time is completely pointless for these guys, and is used only to satisfy some mean-spirited individuals who like to see punishment administered. If the judges cannot exercise their judgement intelligently in these cases, and see the difference between persistent offenders and what are clearly terrible tragedies, then they are not dishing out justice.

    • Jack Tobin driving record:

      – Tobin was ticketed for allegedly going 149 kilometres per hour in a 100-kilometre-per-hour zone on Highway 401 in March

      – Tobin was also sentenced in absentia last May for driving 75 kilometres per hour in a 60-kilometre-per-hour road

      – Entered guilty pleas in October and November for failing to proceed on a green light as directed at two different Toronto intersections

      All infractions occuring in 2010.

      • You've GOT to be kidding me…speeding…failure to proceed on a green. Have you never sped while driving? 15km over the limit…149km is excessive, but so is everyone else on the 401…He's a kid that will be living with this guilt the rest of his life. Do you have a son with a best friend? Do YOU have a best friend. S*it happens and its terrible and tragic for everyone involved but if you seriously think the judicial system should come down and hammer this kid because of THOSE previous infractions, you're dreaming. The next time I drive 15km over the limit I'll be glad you're not driving beside me, cell phone in hand. Perhaps you don't have a 'criminal' driving history, but I am sure you've committed a traffic crime a time or two in your life. If the system does come down hard, it should be for current circumstances..not a speeding ticket and failure to proceed.

        • Ok, I agree, the other charges are minor…BUT, how many people do you know with a 49km over the limit charge? Geez, that's beyond dangerous, give me a break.

    • so if they are, like, really sorry about their crime that took a life, thy shouldn't be punished? is that what you are suggesting? and that if I think a criminal should be punished, I'm mean?


  3. Like the others in this article, Rob Ramage got behind the wheel and drove drunk. He killed someone. The crime was driving drunk and causing death. It was not driving drunk and "accidentally killing my buddy, whose family really feels for me now." If the victim hadn't been his friend, but rather a stranger, there would be no question of his sentencing and incarceration.

    It's absurd to suggest that killing your friend via drunk driving should be seen in a different light than killing a kid crossing the road or a stranger in another car. Frankly, the members of the families of victims should not have a say in whether or not a criminal pays the price for recklessly endangering the lives of everyone else out on the roads that night. Their acts of grief and atonement are their personal right, but these criminals endangered the whole public — not just their family member — and should pay.

    This article is poorly reasoned.

    • Bravo. Couldn't have said it better

    • I agree with your statement but I don't think the article was advocating anything – just raising an interesting perspective (rather nicely I thought).

      • Well said. Ive seen many brag about how they evaded a spot check or how they could drink and drive home without and incident. They dont seem to get the point that it only has to happen once and then you have to live with it forever. If I killed any of my friends because I was drunk at the wheel, then I would want to do the jail time just to make me feel that at least paid some price for killing my buddy.

    • so true……doesn’t matter if person was a stranger, friend or family member even. The person drinking and driving made the choice to do so and to put his life and those with and around him, in danger. we all know what can happen when drinking and driving and driving careless. we know a car is also a dangerous weapon, when driven by a fool. if your wielding a knife around which you know can cut or kill the person beside you, should you be let off because you killed them by accident. life is precious and people need to start thinking about their actions and taking responsibility for the pain and suffering they cause the families and friends, on top of taking away someone’s life. You are responsible for people in your vehicle as to those around you, when you operate a vehicle. You are not driving something that weighs 10lbs and goes 5mph. It is a dangerous weapon when foolish, irresponsible people operate them.I often read comments and wonder how many people have actually experienced the loss of a loved one from drinking and driving, or even carelessness. I have…..and the pain and suffering I experience, will be with me till the day I die. the person who killed my child by accident will feel his own guilt and sorrow, but it will never compare to my pain and sorrow. .. my child would still be here, if the friend hadn’t chose to selfishly drive and act dangerous….It’s harder knowing my child is forever gone, because of a friend’s carelessness. A life just taken because of stupidity.. Responsibility is what it comes down to. They killed someone. It’s not some little accident for heaven sakes. The driver still gets to have the luxury of life. To breath! To see and talk to family and friends who choose to go see them, while behind bars. My child will never have that luxury and I never again, will have my child…..Spending some time behind bars is far better than the sentence given to the person who was in the vehicle with them.

  4. "A life lost and a life destroyed"

    This article goes off the rail right from the start. The person who got behind the wheel drunk committed a crime against ALL of us, not just themselves and their friend. Their reckless disregard for other's safety — resulting in death — endangered EVERYONE on the road and on the sidewalks.

    Why should Ron Ramage's sentence be any lighter because the victim of his crime happened to be a buddy? (If he had been building a meth lab and it exploded killing his friend — as opposed to the mailman at the door — should his sentence be lighter?) Why should the family's sympathy for his plight reduce by one day the sentence he should serve for endangering the rest of us? I guarantee there would be no outpouring of support if Ramage had run over a 10 year old kid or if the others in this article had killed a parking attendant or a bus driver instead of their hapless and inebriated friends.

    This article's reasoning is horribly flawed. The sentence shouldn't have anything to do with the attributes of the victim (friend or stranger) or the personal philosophies of the victims' families (as they don't speak for the rest of the community). Sentencing should be driven by the evidence and the consequences of criminal acts: driving while intoxicate and drunk driving causing death.

    • I couldn't have said it better myself, Amateur Hour. Thank you for doing it so well on behalf of many of us I am sure. Once again these criminal incidents are still erroneously referred to as accidents.

    • I totally agree with this writer. There seems to be two measures here. If people don't forgive, you get jail time. If they do or are friends, nothing. Jail time should even be longer. There were 40 + drunk driving charges in Eastern Ontario during the ride program before Xmas. Who is going to be the next person to be killed?

  5. This article proves nothing of the sort! It is an article about compassion and forgiveness, not about money!

    • haha of course macleans deletes my comment. Proves what i said was right. lol

  6. the real danger here is having "special" punishment for pro atheletes or friends of – it is wrong period and should be severely punished.

  7. Let's make up our minds people. Either we have Laws and sentencing or we have group 'hugs of compassion' for the person who commits the crime and we forget about the Victims. As hard as it sounds we need to have consequences and penalties for the crimes committed. It's nice that Brenda is so willing to forgive Adam. What if it was the Crown Prosecuters kid who was driving? Let's see the forgivness pour out then!

  8. Guest – Yes, it seems apparent the young man has an ingrained lifestyle that needs to change but we have a grandson who, each time he is released from jail, gets meaner.

    Prison in itself is not really a deterrent. It is punishment that makes the populace feel good that the criminal is getting what he deserves, and for sure some folks need to be ''off the streets, but as a blanket solution, I do not see that it helps. In the States they are just having to build more and more of them.

  9. The people involved are going to feel the way they feel. Forgiveness is instrumental in healing; and
    expecting to do hard time for this type of offense is instrumental as a consequential punishment and a warning deterrent.

  10. I don't know what I would do and neither do any of you, unless you were in that situation.But one thing is for sure, the anguished look on Jack Tobin's mother's face says it all.

    • The anguish may not be for what her son has done as the family is doing its best to get him off with the least punishment possible but for the possibility that they may not succeed and her son may have to pay the full penalty for his crime.

      • I think it's safe to say that Mrs. Tobin does not have a heart of stone and has anguish on all fronts.

  11. What a lot of HOGWASH. Killing is killing. Dead is dead. If a person kills another person, their own life should be totally forfeit. 'Drunk' is no reason for leniency – indeed, it should double or treble the guilt – taking the first and subsequent drinks is/was a totally voluntary action, done with full knowledge of its effect.

    Kill anyone while drunk, and you should
    – be deprived forever from owning or driving any vehicle.
    – be compelled to pay to the family of the victim at least one-third of
    your total income for the rest of your life
    – be required to take random medical tests for
    alcohol consumption. If the test at any time shows you've had a
    drink, you would be jailed for a period of years
    – Drunk-driving is NOT a joke – the murderer
    should be treated as a deliberate cold-blooded
    killer, and should remain so always.

    Thus endeth the lesson for today.

    • Thanks for taking the time to enlighten us. In spite of the high-handed attitude, it is difficult to argue your thoughts. I definitely don't agree as far as the firing squads (seperate post) but your other reccomendations are sound and solid. They are serious and severe – just as they should be for anyone who kills another person while drunk.

    • Right on.

    • YES! Keep saying it! Run for office and I'll vote for you.

  12. Losing a child would be unbearable. The only thing that would be almost as bad for the all the parents involved is this situation right here.

  13. Of course, if we weren't such a bleeding-heart, namby-pamby, gutless society, a drunk-driving-killer would be taken immediately from the court-room where he/she was convicted and within 2 hours be publicly executed by hanging or firing-squad.

    A drunk driver causing permanent injury should be required to pay for the full support of the injured person for as long as that person suffered from the injury.

  14. In Calgary a drunk driver in a cement truck drove over a family stopped in a car at a red light. He killed all of them including a baby. He had an open bottle of alcohol in the vehicle with him. He had been driving irratically and had a record of dangerous and fast driving. How many times do impaired drivers drive drunk before they have that accident that takes a life? Do you think this was any of these peoples' first time driving drunk?

    • Just one question,"Who profits the most from alcohol sales?" They try banning smoking so why not drinking? Follow the money trail !

  15. Don't we know that those in the Canadian Establishment get kidglove treatment ? Whether it be ex-Prime Ministers,MPs and all the rest of the great and the definitely not good. There's one law for them,or rather charges dropped because of the alleged difficulty in obtaining a conviction,and another for the rest of us.

  16. Reading all the variety of comments on this posting has moved me to respond. A thinking of "boys will be boys" and "girls will be girls" is not relevent anymore in these times. As a society, we have adopted a lifestyle that embraces compassion with risk, fun with risk, experience with risk, adventure with risk and all other behaviours associated with being human. Unfortunately, there are casualties in the process as has always been in our history. There are impaired drivers and incompetent drivers, and driver's without insurance or license. Pick your target! Today's was the casualties of impaired motorists and the havoc they reek on innocent people. I feel badly for all concerned parties but admire their strength in accepting what is part of living and knowing the cause of their grief. Not like a child or loved one who is unaccounted for . Accidents and poor judgement are inherent in our makeup. I don't think these are premeditated events. Reoccurrent incidences, however, are another matter

    • accidents are not poor judment – look up defination of accident – albeit you say not premediated – drinking and driving is premediated – its a choice — we all know what "can " happen when you drink and drive – but even putting that aside – it's illegal! If he had a gun he was shooting in a firing range and his friend was standing down by the target and he "choose" to fire the gun – what then – oh darn, what a stupid thing for him to do, he should have know what "could" happen. If we start as a society start giving tougher sentences in these cases then the next young man or woman who thinks about drinking and driving may think twice and "choose" not to! Its a choice to go behind the wheel, if you think you MAY get caught and you MAY loose your license it just MAY be a risk you are willing to take. However, if JUST if the sentence for driving while imparied was an automatic even 3 months in prison – irregarless of the who, what and when then I bet 99.9% would think MAY be not – not worth it…..

  17. I really don't get the argument that my reckless and criminal conduct should be glossed over if my victim was such a close friend that he "was like a brother to me." What, if I killed my actual brother I should just go free, too?

    The crime begins when I get myself intoxicated while possessed with the intent to drive. The result is NOT AN ACCIDENT. Can we please stop calling the results of these crimes accidents?

    The sympathy induced by the relationship I may have had with my victim has no place in the criminal justice sphere. Or maybe I can cut a nice deal because I was drunk when I slit my wife's throat?

    The overall theme expressed above, that somehow the remorse is punishment enough, is disgusting. Amateur Hour nails it: the crime of drunk driving causing death is a crime against all of us.

    • On the other hand, one could argue that the fact that the victims here were willing participants in the misadventures serves as a mitigating factor.

      • the person with the driver, was not breaking the law…..they were not driving impaired. they weren’t obviously willing to drive and that is why they were a passenger. you can not fault the victim, especially if they had been drinking. maybe they couldn’t make the judgement on how much the driver had drank or the effects on the driver. The driver shouldn’t have drove and it was his or her responsibility, since they decided to get behind the wheel. IF a friend decided to act dangerously and knife someone while you are standing beside him, does that mean you are at fault because you trusted your friend to have common sense? I think not. Punish the people truly at fault and don’t try and drag the victims into it. A poor decision on a choice of friend, is not the same as the dangerous decision the person driving made, which caused death. It is not accident. While i’m sure the driver never wanted anyone to die, it was not an accident they drove. They knew they would drink while driving to the bar. You can’t give back someone’s life. Accountability is the only way people will learn to give s**t about the people around them.

  18. There is NO excuse for driving drunk and taking another persons life!!..All the sobbing ,bleeding hearts BS here makes me sick.

  19. I worked as a bar waitress through university and now I teach high school and it seems to me as though Canadian society depends on alcohol nearly as much as they depend on oxygen. I am surprised there are not more drunk driving fatalities but there are too many incidences involving alcohol and not enough being done about it; Canadian laws are way too lenient. We should adopt the drunk driving – zero tolerance laws they have in countries such as Japan and Germany and then we wouldn't have these bleeding-heart sob stories of losing a best friend. It is a tragedy but we are an educated country and the message of the consequences of drinking and driving is not being heard; something else must be done.

    • Waitresses are supposed to refuse alcohol to people who are obviously drunk because the bar could be held liable for serving alcohol to somebody who gets behind the wheel of a car. If you have ever knowingly served anybody who was drunk, then you broke the law, even if you faced the possible of being fired by your boss if you didn't do it. However, waitresses obviously can't tell that someone is drunk in all cases. Otherwise, they would never serve drunks. We don't tolerate drunk driving in Canada. Otherwise, there would be no penalties for it. Okay, something must be done? LIke what? Stricter penalties? The problem with that idea is that criminals always think themselves capable of committing the perfect crime. How about a bloody vengeance? How about mob justice? How about Canadians losing more and more of their rights until we have none left because we don't live in a perfect world and God has given Caesar the power of the sword?

      • True. But it really isn't the waitresses responsibility to ensure a person is operating a vehicle within the given laws. How about real penalties attached to the laws we already have? Like confiscation and sale of vehicles for people caught multiple times etc. I think its a real stretch to go from outlawing drunk driving (something already existant) to Urban Cohorts enforcing the Ceasers political will.

  20. I'm not sure if anyone mentioned this already or not, but in a young man in his early 20's was killed this week in western Newfoundland by a drunk driver fleeing the police. Like Tobin, the main quickly apologized (http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2011-01-06/article-2094774/Update%3A-Man-apologizes-in-court-for-hitting-pedestrian-/1). Although I did not know the victim, it happened in a nearby community and on roads I frequently use. I feel more strongly than ever that drunk drivers (especially those well over the legal alcohol limit) need certain punishment. These crimes are completely avoidable and therefore all the more tragic.

  21. As I see it, there is nothing "accidental" about getting behind the wheel of a vehicle when impaired (by alcohol or drugs). How is it any different than standing in the middle of the road with a loaded shotgun and randomly firing rounds? You may or may not kill someone ……

    • If the person with the shotgun was drunk while randomly shooting, he/she would likely have the bleeding hearts feeling so sorry for him. However, if he was sober, he'd have the book thrown at him.

      The bottom line needs to be "take a life – give a life". Give it in fact wsith a quick public execution following conviction. Or give it [as long as we are governed by gormless [lacking balls] people and parties] symbolically by enforced financial and personal life-time service to the family whose member was killed.

  22. The difference is that someone firing live rounds into a crowd is undoubtedly attempting to kill or wound somebody while people who drive home from a bar while drunk are usually hoping to get home safely and without incident. That's a huge difference, though the outcome of both actions may result in death and tragedy. The reason why we make distinctions in degrees of murder is because only a primitive and barbaric society would treat murder with premeditation the same as it would an accidental death through another person's carelessness and lack of foresight. People who think that harsher penalties will be a deterrent make the fallacy of thinking that the hindsight of a convicted felon will lead to foresight in someone who has had too many drinks. Now, if you just want the satisfaction of punishing evildoers, even if it accomplishes nothing, then you should just say it, but we reap what we sow. An eye for an eye makes everyone blind.

    • "a person's carelessness and lack of foresight" — it's not lack of forsight, how can it be. It's illegal to drink and drive, regardless if you cause damage to anything – if you drink and drive then you have just made a choice to break the law – so now you are involved in an illegal activity, and its illegal for a reason – can you guess what that is? You are operating a 4000 + lbs of metal while every sense you have is impaired. Every DAY in Canada 4 people die as a result of NOT a person's carlessness and lack of foresight but a choice to drive while impaired. Tougher sentences means people may think LONG and hard before the "choose" to drink and drive — http://www.madd.ca – see for yourself, its fact –

      • what Tobin did was not an accident -I am sure he feels unlike anything I can ever imagine, I am sure he could take it all back, I am almost just as sure he would tell you he thought if he ever got caught drinking and driving he would loose his license for "awhile" – that was it — what if when you drink and drive – regardless of the outcome, you automatically go to prison – IMAGI NE the different choices we would make – forget hindsight – lets make it the forseeable future and it just might work!

    • Tony, I understand what you mean. Perhaps it is more like putting one bullet in the chamber of a handgun and standing out in the street and pulling the trigger. Chances are the bullet won't be discharged and no one will be hurt but what if it is? That is the chance you take when you drink and get behind the wheel. If you truly want to get home safely and without incident, you call a cab. You realize when you go into the bar with your car and car keys and order the first, second, third drink….you can't drive safely…you are playing russian roulette with your life and other peoples. Is that "careless and lack of foresight" or are just not being honest with yourself and selfish and negligent? Even if a person has made bad choices in the past, it is never too late to make better choices. The threat of prison is supposed to make people make the right choice – not to take chances by drinking and driving.

  23. Go to jail and shut up. I have no remorse for people who drink and drive. Zero tolerance I say.
    As the article says: A custodial sentence now means just that: in custody, not house arrest.
    In all drunk driving cases, the primary goal of sentencing is deterrence, not individual rehabilitation.
    As it should be. No excuses. ZERO tolerance.

  24. Sorry, but friend or not, these people got behind the wheel of a car, intoxicated and were responsible for not only the passengers in their vehicle but all other motorists out on the road. In the above cases the impaired driver lived and friend died and fortunately no one else (another motorist) was killed. Although the 'intent' to kill the friend may not have been there and the family of the victim has 'forgiven' them the driver/friend still got behind the wheel of car, intoxicated which is criminal, and rightfully so. As it was indicated earlier, there was nothing accidental about the driver's actions when he got behind the wheel of the vehicle while impaired. For justice to have not been served because the driver was a 'family friend' would have been criminal. We are not asking for punishment for the driver because his intention was not to kill his friend what we are asking is for punishment of his action, the one sole action of getting behind the wheel of the vehicle while intoxicated and putting EVERYONE at risk of harm/death including the passengers of his own vehicle.

  25. The DRUG with the HIGHEST intoxication is the DRUG ALCOHOL.

    Kids/Youth do NOT use the DRUG alcohol in MODERATION.

    So how do we explain the FOLLY of having a National drug strategy http://www.nationalantidrugstrategy.gc.ca/ ) that doesn't include the actual DRUG that KILLS most of our youth more than all other drugs combined, the drug ALCOHOL (#1 killer of youth), the DRUG that is the reason most youth are in prison because of its intoxication (the DRUG alcohol has the HIGHEST intoxication of all drugs, kids don't use it in MODERATION) and the DRUG that ADDICTS most of our citizens (most addicts are by FAR alcohol addicts, illicit drug addicts account for only 2 to 3% of all addict) ?

    Its not like Health Canada has another website on the drug alcohol, it doesn't. ITS LIKE ALCOHOL DOESN'T EXIST.

    Ideology before kids safety. The WAR ON DRUGS (i.e. the phony Tough on Crime) SELLS (very well). IT gets VOTES.

    Telling the kids/youth the TRUE FACTS, doesn't.

    These are NOT tragic accidents, they are 100% predictable.

    Everyone is a victim and the culprits is our Government (and authorities) who FAIL to inform the public on the TRUTH.

    • Try not TO write with random CAPITALIZATION spewed all over YOUR post. And PEOPLE may actually BE INCLINED to READ it.

  26. If the guilty drunk driver is in jail, he/she is off the streets. Any one that drives a car while drunk is automatically guilty by law of putting themselves in danger or an innocent bystander. Stiffer laws need to be brought in to keep these useless drunks away from vehicles and locked up longer. I recommend life sentences without a chance of parole for 25 yrs. if they have killed someone! It is premeditated once they get behind the wheel; they are the one pulling the trigger.

  27. it's a sad situation , driving drunk should never be tolerated and killing your best friend must feel like hell on earth . Would it be any different if any of them had killed a stranger ? Driving and drinking is a recipe for disaster and some family or families are going to be in pain and it is all so unnecessary . If you drink – don't drive . If you do you should be charged whether you killed or injured a friend , a stranger , a pet or no one at all .
    It isn't any secret that driving while drinking is like waving a loaded gun around . My heart aches for all who have lost a loved one caused by drunk driving . The ultimate price the driver faces is killing their best friend and destrying that friends family and their own .such a stupid waste .

  28. Alcoholism is a disease. Those people who have it cannot take the first drink without having a plan in mind. They cannot drive, Is there any way that drinking establishments can cut patrons off sooner, or have a test for them to take before getting back their keys that are deposited at the desk. Didn't they try this at one time? Every one involved with the drinker has to know that they cannot be depended upon. Back up plans are a necessity. Very tragic and heartbreaking.

  29. These are not accidents. They are crimes resulting from willful misconduct. The punishment of hard jail time fits the crime. Too bad, he was a friend. So what? You killed him, you go to jail and society sends the proper message about the value of the victim's life and cost for such misconduct.

  30. As a young man I have driven impaired and I have driven with my friends driving who were impaired.today.I look back and thank god that none of us ended our lives or others from this stupidity.We still make the same weak excuses when we tell kids we did the same and why they shouldn't do it.Always of course there was less traffic on the roads in those days.The ditches were just as deep and rock walls just as hard.the only redeeming feature is that a 48 Plymouth Club Coupe was built like a tank is today.

  31. There's nothing accidental about drinking and driving. It's a crime, plain and simple and more than preventable. Articles like this make my blood boil. Whether you killed your best friend or a complete stranger, a life is both lost and destroyed, and you should expect to do time. These families are entitled to forgive their child's killer if they want, but this shouldn't have any bearing on the sentence these drivers receive.

    To suggest that it should is ridiculous. People have to know that there are consequences to their actions. If we started given people reduced sentences because they killed a friend, what precedent would that set for drunk drivers who are arrested by a random stop and haven't killed anybody? If you drink and drive, and kill someone, be it a friend or not, you should do time. And be it a friend or stranger, you still will have to live with the fact that you took a life.

  32. By allowing these young men leniency because the families of the victim have forgiven them does nothing but show Canadians that it's okay to get drunk behind the wheel and kill someone if it's a friend who dies. It's wonderful that these families can find healing in forgiveness and that they continue to support these men during and after their release. However, we still need to remember that a serious law was broken. Lives were lost, through arrogance and ignorance. And there is a price to be paid for that.

  33. We are too politically correct when it comes to teaching our kids (and everybody else) not to drink and drive. In other parts of the world, they get the message across more aggresively. For instance, this video from Australia's TAC (Transport Accident Commission) really gets the message across. It's not just about drinking and driving, but speeding, careless driving, etc. It should be shown to every young driver in this country. A life lost, be it that of a friend or not, is still a life lost.
    [youtube Z2mf8DtWWd8&feature=player_embedded http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2mf8DtWWd8&feature=player_embedded youtube]

  34. When it happens to someone else, we want justice. When it happens to ourselves or someone we love, we want mercy.

    • Thanks for providing a compassionate, human, perspective rather than a hypocritical villagers-with-pitchforks response to a nuanced and deeply troubling issue. It is all to easy to pronounce damnation and all too difficult to acknowledge that many of us have actually engaged in dangerous behaviours and have not suffered the consequences of our actions or the judgements of others. This is a tragedy, as all losses of life are. The thing that makes it an accident is the lack of intention and all the more so, the horror of such consequences. The impairment conferred by alcohol intake inhibits good judgement and social momentum, often contributed by the victims as well as the "perpetrators" is an extenuating circumstance that needs to be addressed by regulators and legislation in sobriety and with thought. Not by reactionary and appallingly cruel armchair dictators. Can so few of us recognise that we are not fit to cast the first stone? Can so few of us not see the inherent tragedy and loss and also acknowledge that incarceration is not going to bring back the dead nor is it going to imbue alcoholic haze with deterrence or good judgement? Be human. If you can.

      • I want to challenge a few of your assertions.
        1. The thing that makes it an accident is that lack of intention….if you take your vehicle to a place and plan to drive it home and then start to imbibe, the moment you begin to imbibe you have expressed the intention of drinking alcohol. If you continue beyond 2 drinks and have not made a conscious decision to not drive home, you have expressed the intention to drive over the legal limit.
        2. Alcohol intake inhibits good judgement and social momententum often contributed by the victims…..the buck stops with the driver. You make the choices before you drink alcohol about whether you will drink alcohol and whether you will drive. If you can't stand up to peer pressure, you aren't mature enough to hold a license.

        • I only wish that the world were more densely populated with superior beings such as yourself.

          • "Stupid is as stupid does."

            There are plenty of us who have enough sense to leave the wheels at home – or, barring that, to leave them parked at the bar/friend's house/wherever – when going out drinking.

            That said, I agree there ought to be room for some differentiation in punishment between the death of a bystander versus the death of a willing participant when sentencing – esp. if the participant actively encouraged the drunk driver to get behind the wheel.

  35. The drug alcohol has the highest intoxication and kids/youth/young adults do NOT use it in MODERATION (a false argument for justifying alcohol use).

    See http://www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/?q=node/28 for intoxication of alcohol compared to other substances, its the worst.

    Also an article at CBC site: Alcohol most dangerous drug for drivers: study. Driving under the influence of marijuana has a 2X chance of death. Driving just over 0.08 on alcohol has a 40X chance of death. The same report states at 0.16 its 80X chance of death. (CBC has removed this article but the Justice Department of Canada has the report).

    The fact is its the drug alcohol where you can actually lose the ability to determine if you can drive or not due to its extreme intoxication (i.e. after a one or two drinks, decide can't drive, after a few more, CAN FLY … total lost or out of control and/or mindless). This doesn't really happen with marijuana, if you think you cannot drive, you don't.

    NOTE that at 0.08, its not out of your mind driving, most can drive, the problem is that you can't react to an emergency situation at 0.08. Impairment also starts with the 1st sip, not at 0.08 (when its at the 40X chance of death).

    Its not a man thing, its science. Alcohol slowly turns off the central nervous system piece by piece (until you actually if you have an overdose, essentially forget to even breathe … you smother to death).

    WE will better off as a society when we can discuss FACTS and TRUTH, not MYTH and PROPAGANDA.

    Think about it, think about what the intoxication or impairment levels of marijuana is compared to alcohol.

    My bet is all the kids/youth/young adults involved in a death from alcohol don't/never even know how intoxicating it can be (it has the highest of all drugs, that means its the most dangerous especially when abused … not used in moderation) … but I bet they all know the standard marijuana LIES (the drug with the lowest intoxication, not even (or hardly) on the same scale as alcohol).

    Is that their fault ?

    • "This doesn't really happen with marijuana, if you think you cannot drive, you don't. " Really? I knew plenty of people in my youth who were more likely to get behind the wheel when stoned than when drunk. And their reflexes were plenty slowed down. Impaired is impaired.

      It doesn't matter WHAT you're high on – if you're using any form of recreational drug, you don't belong behind the wheel.

      BTW, since we're talking impairment: texting is several orders of magnitude more impairing than alcohol.

  36. In BC, our Premier was convicted of drunk driving at twice over the limit 0.08, being a man in his 50s, he pleaded IGNORANCE.

    If a man in his 50s who is a Premier of a province doesn't know anything about how dangerous or how to use the drug alcohol, HOW would we expect kid/youth/young adults to know ?

    How many know it has the HIGHEST intoxication of all drugs (and what that means) ? Etc..

    The whole Don't Drink and Drive is flawed because once you start drinking, at a certain level of intoxication you lose the ability to make the decision to drive, It becomes a meaningless statement, etc.. Or how the effects of alcohol are delayed. It should be really Don't Drive to Drink, leave the car at home (and don't get in your buddies either which can really only achieved if no one drives).

    No one tells them the TRUTH on the drug alcohol … that is what is TRAGIC about these accidents.

    Yea sure, lock em up … NOTHING will change.

    • Well said! Why do bars and pubs have parking lots, anyways? And for that matter perhaps those profiting from the sale of alcohol should provide shuttle bus or other safe tranport home to their bread and butter, the drinkers.

  37. Four years is nothing for one life taken, suck it up, take your punishment, learn from it and move on, at least you still have your life.

  38. If you drink adn drive you need to be punished and it should be costly. 3-5 years isnt enough if you ask me, when someone willingly gets into a car they know can kill someone or can harm someone ( his friend ) in an accident.
    so the fact the mothers friend wants him to get nothing because she cares is a joke.

  39. Knowing these boys and other young men I can appreciate and understand teh sentiments of leniency but I can't condone it. Doesn't matter if you are alone in a car or with your best friend or with a hitchhiker…….you, the driver, made the decision to drink and drive. That right there is the criminal offense. Not the fact that someone was hurt or killed. You chose to drink and drive, period. Criminal. Until we start seeing this seriour offense it is young people will continue to do it. There is no wishy washy line, no hazy line…it doesn't make it less criminal because it was your best friend.

  40. Okay, for everyone that thinks that because it was his best friend that he killed he should get a light sentence………..how about the husband who drinks and beats his wife to death……she was his wife…..he was drunk……should he be given leniency? Or the youths who after drinking decide to play with a gun and one dies…….leniency? the crack prositute who gives her client HIV…….leniency because she was high??? Come on. It's time to stop using drugs, drink, addictions as a Get Out Of Jail Free card.

    • The situation needs to be considered. Mowing down a stranger in a crosswalk definitely deserves more time than, for example, Rabolt's, where McMullin roused Rabolt from his sleep and enticed him into going out – and then didn't bother with his seatbelt. McMullin was an active participant; arguably the instigator. He therefore bears much of the responsibility for his own death.

      Should Rabolt get less time because McMullin was his friend? No. Should he get less time because McMullin was partially to blame for what happened? Yes.

  41. I think it's lovely that the victims' families are sympathetic to the offenders, but the rest of the community might feel better if someone willing to put their best friend's life on the line for a fun night out, was off the streets, altogether!
    This is not about what the immediate circle of influence wants, but what is best for the community.

  42. As much as I hate getting thumbed down, here goes…
    Some are missing a crucial point in the case. The “defendants” are being charged with multiple offences, one of which is regarding killing their friends while driving drunk. For the other driving charges, they are guilty with out a doubt, but the murder/vehicular homicide I think requires a more nuanced view.

    Many have pointed out that the driver knowingly drove while drunk. Well, that same criteria can be applied to the occupant of the vehicle. Using the Russian Roulette comparison, the driver has the gun and pulls the trigger, but the passenger put his head right beside. If the families of those involved plead for mercy on behalf of the driver, it should be taken into consideration by the Judge. It is neither mine nor your decision how these families feel and how they want the **justice** to be carried out.

    But the driver is still responsible for the other charges relating to the drunk driving.

  43. Every situation is different. Don't you people think they have been punished enough? To wake up every morning knowing that your best friend is no long there because a stupid mistake you've made? Thats a punishment thats going to last a life time. I mean yes they should be puished some way or another because it is the law but that doen't give them the right to say to they family " I don't care about what you think and feel" I can vouch for one person in this article and I can say that he has learn his lession. Do you think he'll do it again knowing the pain that he has caused himself as well as his family?…….It's something thats going to haunt him for the rest of his life.
    People can have their opinion's but I know you would think and feel differntly if you were in this situation.

  44. If this guy was poor this would have never happened.He only had been given compassion because his parents are most likely well connected.see if some random guy kills his buddy drinking and driving he wold be given life in prison.

  45. This reminds me of my own experience with my dog. My pixie came to me when she was 6 weeks old. I had a sweet dog before for 11 years and so, there was no hesitation or anxiety to care for the little pup. But, I was in for a shock. The pup seemed almost mad. Ate or drank enormous amount of food, seemed endlessly awake and naughty in demonic proportions. She had a bad temper to match. There was destruction galore. I had a mere two years of homeopathic experience, and in desperation, used it. Imagine my surprise and happiness when it showed results. It took almost one year to get pixie to be a normal pup but she did become one. Now she is one of the sweetest dogs I have ever seen though she bares her fangs at the drop of a hat and barks furiously at contraptions making noises she does not like. But she is totally harmless and quiets down once we touch her gently. Even now she is furious if we try to medicate her but does not mind licking off the white pills I give her when needed.