SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. -- An American substitute teacher learned a hard — and costly — lesson when she took a wrong turn in the Michigan Sault and ended up at the Canadian border.
Shelly Hamlin was charged with impaired driving Saturday afternoon after she pulled up to Canada Customs at the International Bridge.
The 47-year-old woman from Pellston, Mich., was then transported to the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service building for a breath test, which she refused to take.
On Monday, after spending two nights in custody, she was in a local courtroom where she pleaded guilty to impaired driving and failing to provide a breath sample.
Hamlin was fined $1,000 (the mandatory minimum) on each count and was prohibited from driving in Canada for a year.
Ontario Court Justice Kristine Bignell told her that Ontario and Michigan likely have reciprocal agreements about driving prohibitions.
"Chances are Michigan will also prohibit you from driving under the reciprocal agreement, but that's up to Michigan," she said.
The court heard a Border Services officer spoke to Hamlin at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
She was unsteady on her feet when she was escorted inside a building and had a strong odour of alcohol on her breath, prosecutor Dana Peterson said.
When she was arrested, she said, "I'm probably impaired."
City police officers noted her answers to questions were slurred and that she almost fell into a wall when asked to stand up, the assistant Crown attorney said.
After she was given her rights to counsel, she became belligerent with police and was swearing.
The breath test technician also told her she had the right to speak to a lawyer, Peterson said.
Hamlin asked about the breathalyzer machine and said, "I'm not doing it."
Despite being told that a refusal to blow carried a charge with the same penalty as the impaired, she declined two more times.
The mother of four cried as she told Bignell that she has been in a rough financial situation and has been struggling to get back on her feet.
"I know it doesn't matter, I broke the law," she said.
The fines recommended by the Crown are the "absolute" minimums, Bignell said.
Bignell asked why she was coming into Canada.
Hamlin said she hadn't planned to cross the border but had become emotional and upset after calling her son.
She said when she realized she was driving towards the border, "I was right there.
"I thought I'd just go across and come back. It didn't work out," Hamlin said.
"I was upset, crying. That's no excuse I broke the law."