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Driver found drunk, asleep at wheel

By Don Farmer

A man found asleep slumped over the wheel of his car with the lights on and the key in the ignition was more than two-and-a-half times over the legal alcohol limit.

But although Gisborne Turanga Mahaki has pleaded guilty to drink-driving, he is mounting a legal case to try to avoid being disqualified and has challenged police evidence that he drove over the Rimutaka Hill Rd while highly intoxicated.

In Masterton District Court yesterday, police prosecutor Sergeant Garry Wilson said police found Mahaki, 31, fast asleep in his car in Martinborough, at 4.20am on October 9, 2011.

The car lights were on and the keys in the ignition. He had told police he had come from the South Island on the inter-island ferry and had been drinking while on board. A breath test revealed his breath alcohol reading to be 1054mcg per litre of breath. The legal limit is 400mcg.

For Mahaki, solicitor Louise Elder said there was "a little bit more than meets the eye" to the case. She said Mahaki had been parked on the side of the road and "genuinely asleep", as opposed to faking sleep when police arrived.

"He wasn't going anywhere."

Ms Elder said Mahaki had driven from Wellington, but had only consumed a couple of beers on the ferry. He arrived in Martinborough and had an evening meal with his parents before going out to a bar with his father. When his father had returned home, Mahaki carried on drinking with friends.

Ms Elder said he had been found in his car two hours and 20 minutes after the pubs had shut.

The trip on the ferry had been much earlier, and he was now in the process of securing proof of his ticketed journey.

Mahaki is now living in Gisborne and was remanded to Gisborne District Court for sentence on October 15.

Ms Elder said Mahaki would outline special reasons why he should not become a disqualified driver.


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