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Southwold councillor charged with impaired driving



Southwold councillor charged with impaired driving

A Southwestern Ontario municipal politician is charged with impaired driving after police say a driver crashed their vehicle into a creek and fled the scene.

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A Southwestern Ontario municipal politician is charged with impaired driving after police say a driver crashed their vehicle into a creek and fled the scene.

Elgin County OPP responded to a single-vehicle collision near Argyle and Lanark streets in Southwold Township, southwest of St. Thomas, shortly before 8 a.m. on April 4.

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Investigators determined that a vehicle travelling on Argyle Street left the road some time overnight and crashed into a creek. The driver left the scene before returning in a different vehicle in the morning and speaking with officers, police said.

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“Essentially the owner of the vehicle contacted the tow company to remove it, then we were contacted by the tow company,” OPP spokesperson Const. Brett Phair said of how police learned about the vehicle stuck in the creek.

The driver was arrested after an officer observed signs of impairment and administered a roadside test, which they failed, police said.

Sarah Emons, 45, is charged with impaired driving and ordered to appear in court on April 30. She was given a 90-day licence suspension and had her vehicle impounded for seven days, automatic measures under the Highway Traffic Act.

Court documents allege Emons had more than 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres blood within two hours of driving a vehicle. She was released on an undertaking, a document created by either a court or police that places the charged person under certain conditions.

Emons has served as a councillor in Southwold Township since 2018.

Lisa Higgs, the chief administrative officer and clerk for the Elgin County Township, said Emons will remain on the five-member municipal council despite the charge against her.

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“Under the municipal act, that will be consistent under the law,” Higgs said Monday, declining to answer any additional questions. “We have no comment on a private legal mater.”

Municipal politicians facing criminal charges can stay in office even if they’re convicted – only a jail sentence disqualifies them from holding office – under the Ontario Municipal Act.

Emons is also chair of the board of directors for the Lower Thames Valley Conservation Authority and the conservation director for the Long Point Biosphere Region. She didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday.

Last week, the OPP pledged to beef up efforts to combat impaired driving in response to a surge in cases of the crime.

Impaired driving deaths spiked 31 per cent between 2018 and 2023, when there were 385 fatalities on OPP-patrolled roads across Ontario, and cases of police laying impaired driving charges also increased by 33 per cent during the six-year period, the OPP said.

Police warned drivers that Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere (RIDE) checkpoints will continue to be rolled out throughout the year and drivers should be prepared to provide a breath sample to officers at these stops.

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