Driving ban continues to cause grief for Prince Edward Island woman two years later

Nigel Armstrong
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Scales of justice

Amber MacPhail moved a vehicle while disqualified from driving while her family was away, attending to a dying relative

Amber MacPhail has one charge of drunk driving from 2012 and years of trouble because of it, continuing all through the long medical journey and recent death of a family member.

From that 2012 impaired driving charge, MacPhail was under a court order not to drive for 12 months, but was caught driving in 2013 and given an additional driving suspension of 18 more months, plus 15 days in jail on weekends.

On Dec. 10 last year, RCMP officers noticed her driving past them near her home in Marshfield. She was arrested and later her car was impounded. The court heard that she likely took the licence plate off her vehicle before it was towed away.

In January this year all her family on P.E.I. were out of province to be with a critically ill family member. That family member died on Jan. 10.

MacPhail’s mother's vehicle was parked at her home while the family was away.

On Jan. 5, RCMP officers in Stratford who knew MacPhail and her driving prohibition saw her driving that car, using the licence plate from her other, impounded vehicle.

MacPhail, 36,  was charged a second time for driving while disqualified and that second car was also impounded.

She pleaded guilty to both counts of driving while disqualified in Charlottetown provincial court this week.

Defence lawyer Clare Henderson told the court that her client was under a huge amount of stress.

“I suppose if it weren’t for poor decisions, we would all be unemployed in this profession." Judge Nancy Orr

A man had been vandalizing her home off and on during a protracted domestic dispute and has been criminally charged with that activity.

Henderson told the court that MacPhail was trying to protect her mother’s car from possible vandalism by driving it to her mother’s residence in Stratford while the family was away.

There was no family at home in P.E.I. to help and MacPhail was taking cabs to work at the cost of $30 per day, the court heard.

“She is extremely sorry for her action,” said Henderson. “She is extremely sorry she has to be back here again.”

“I suppose if it weren’t for poor decisions, we would all be unemployed in this profession,” said Judge Nancy Orr.

Henderson asked the court to consider a weekend sentence again, and if so, to allow it to begin next week so MacPhail can take family members to Jack Frost celebrations as a relief from their recent turmoil.

Crown prosecutor Jeff MacDonald agreed and Orr imposed a total sentence of 60 days in jail on weekends starting next week, plus 18 more months of no driving, and a total of $300 for the victims of crime fund.



Organizations: RCMP

Geographic location: P.E.I., Stratford, Toronto Marshfield Charlottetown

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Recent comments

  • Chantell
    February 28, 2014 - 22:44

    Whatever happened to not judging someone until you actually had to walk in their shoes. She is a single mother who has gone through more in a 2 year period than probably most of you in a lifetime. And you can all make your catty remarks about her asking to attend the Jack Frost festival but as a single mother and a woman who just buried her sister, can we not show enough compassion to give her that time with her kids. She made a mistake and clearly has continued to make some bad choices however I find it hard to believe that none of you standing on your soap boxes have never made a mistake. This could be your daughter, or your friend and everyone deserves a chance to rectify their mistakes. On a daily basis there are people committing robberies with dirty syringes and selling drugs to children and Amber is not one of those people, so everyone take a step back and realize you are not perfect either and get a grip and pay more attention to your own business than others.

    • Simone
      March 01, 2014 - 09:35

      Chantell and Noneya Business(probably the same person) We have all suffered family loss.One of mine at the hands of a drunk driver when she was 15,but we don't let our grief guide us into making poor decisions resulting in a criminal act!Your comments are an example of supporting bad behavior by making excuses.And for the record even with the catastrophic events in my life and dealing with a deadly disease since the age of 20, I do not even have a parking ticket nor do any of my family members. We have managed to remain law abiding citizens despite our "family problems". As I stated before.....grow up and accept responsibility! Don't care if you are 16 or 36 or 86!

    • Let's Not Forget
      March 02, 2014 - 02:06

      Unfortunately, Chantell, probably alot of the backlash here is the result of the over-the-top sympathic tone of the article. If it had been written from a more impartial standpoint, it wouldn't have been so insulting to those of us who have lost loved ones to drunk driving.

  • Let's Not Forget
    February 28, 2014 - 21:40

    While I agree that Amber MacPhail is probably going through a rough time right now, the bottom line is she brought this on herself. She drove drunk in 2012 and her current issues all stem from that first arrest. Having lost a best friend to a drunk driver, I find it hard to feel sorry for her. She gets to wake up every morning and see the people she loves. I hope she thinks about the fact that she could've killed someone. And maybe all this hardship will make her think twice the next time she thinks she's OK to drive.

  • w kennedy
    February 28, 2014 - 12:37

    How does she make another two way trip to the weekend jail???

    • Noneya business
      February 28, 2014 - 17:07

      Clearly you people have nothing better to do all you HATEFUL comments isn't going to change what she ha done nore will it make her get more time MR. Regular Joe you alone show your a sick puppy if you think this girl should get more time then a child molester is that a suggestion that a child molester is in less wrong than this girl lol you all seem so miserable it funny to read all this act like she is the only person that has done wrong I'm sure it make you people feel good to kick someone while they are down a bunch of noise bags that pray on TROUBLED people cause you lives are so perfect like this write up isn't even that bad she did her time when she was drinking and driving and she's clearly doing her time for this god forbid this SINGLE mom thinks of her kids and wants to spend her last weekend with her kids cause her bad choices cause them to suffer enough and yet you complain about that most criminals don't think of their kids at all LOL this story is the end of the world LOL noise bags lol ONLY PEI HAS DAILY CORT STORIES IN THE PAPER and you losers take the time to sit and write on it ALL UPSET LOSING SLEEP OVER IT LMAO get a life!!!!!! NOISE BAGS!!!!! I mean look at Dylan Dingwell the write up on him for finishing his parole something positive and now doing the best staying sober starting to make something of his life for the first time ever you all even go on about that begging negative has never been proven to work more like supporting does as if these people don't only have to live with their mistakes for the rest of their lives making their families suffer you all act they don't know this all ready so I say to you NEGATIVE PEOPLE get a life and maybe seek to find god!!! He brings happiness worry about your own miserable selfs or at least go find a story that is more harsh then this LOL jokes on you all!!!

  • Jamie
    February 28, 2014 - 10:00

    I have a vision of this young lady...lets make her drive a bus and load up all the police officers and judges she meets and have her drop them off and pick them up from work every day??? Now thats punishment !

  • Sue
    February 28, 2014 - 08:14

    This woman continues to ignore the law,the first time for drinking and driving ,then she gets caught twice for driving a car while her licence was suspended.We all have stress in our lives but no excuse for repeatedly breaking the law!

    February 28, 2014 - 08:05

    There are probably plenty of people in jail that consider their punishment grief. Why not let them all out to attend functions? They will come back when they have nothing else to do. Nasty justice system interfering with what they want to do.

  • Quiet Observer
    February 28, 2014 - 07:31

    This woman was not forced to make bad choices. Those were her choices that she willingly made. Do you think the only times she was driving was when she was caught? Get real. Allowing her time to go to Jack frost is silly.

  • Jimmy Hoffa JR
    February 28, 2014 - 06:20

    If it was a male driver the fine would have been at least three times higher . I guess sob stories work

  • J
    February 28, 2014 - 05:58

    This woman needs to have her head examined and so does the judge who fell for her sob story.

  • Blue Collar
    February 27, 2014 - 21:57

    Can't help but shake my head at the stupidity of PEI courts. Inconvenience as a 'punishment'. Give your heads a shake, people. The driving ban didn't work the first time. It didn't work the second time. Einstein's definition of insanity is 'doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results'. It's time to try something else, and stop inconveniencing this poor woman for her first dumb mistake.

  • What's Wrong With All of You?
    February 27, 2014 - 20:05

    There is definitely no shortage of people who love to kick others when they're down. People make mistakes and she is certainly paying for them. My heart goes out to her and her family for the grief and loss that they've experienced. It would do far more good to give words of encouragement or offer a helping hand than to insult her character or chastise her. Show some compassion, or at the very least keep your hateful comments to yourselves.

    • Reginald O'Malley
      Reginald O'Malley
      February 27, 2014 - 23:00

      If she drunkenly drove her car into someone you cared about while suspended, would you like to have your gooey support knitted onto a nice throw pillow for her? This "stop being so mean" attitude is totally out of place here. Sometimes, there's good reason to pass judgment and to bring someone's actions to justice. This happens to be one of those times. Your support, however well meaning, is harmfully weak in this case. A car being driven by someone the law has seen fit to suspend repeatedly, is a very dangerous thing. Sometimes it takes real meanies like us to ensure the entitled criminal is brought to task for their actions and we can feel just a wee bit safe.

    • Simone
      February 28, 2014 - 11:31

      To What's Wrong With All of You? Seriously!!! Kick her while she's down?She is never down because she is always illegally driving on the road.My family member did not get a 2nd chance when they were hit and killed by a drunk driver years ago.They were just out for a walk when someone decided to drive drunk .These are not hateful comments as you say they are factual comments! While this woman did not kill anyone,it is inevitable that she will fulfill that prophecy,given her past history.I am appalled that any one would defend this woman!!

    • sad
      February 28, 2014 - 22:29

      Unless you all know the tragedy of her recent events you dont know I know you cant break the law but give her a break she just lost her best friend and sister shame on you all lost her dad at age 6 too I hear there is good family entertainment outside for all your families terrible heading by the way grief is feal

  • pei legal system is a joke
    February 27, 2014 - 18:46

    Ah Judge Orr, the same one who was quoted last week as saying 2.5 years for RAPING an underage girl was a harsher sentence than has normally been the case in PEI. And now we see repeat drunk drivers getting the same ''tut tut'' slap on the wrist. The sentencing guidelines that PEI judges use are merely GUIDELINES. That means that each and every time PEI judges can choose (and should choose) to exceed the recommended sentence or the national average. Why not lead the country in terms of having the harshest sentences against drunk drivers? Drunks should receive a 6 month jail sentence PLUS a fine of $2500 PLUS a 24 month suspension of license on the FIRST conviction. The second conviction should result in their license permanently revoked, their vehicle seized (and demolished), a fine of $5000 and a 2 year jail sentence. For violating the driving suspension, make it harsh as well. A minimum 12 month jail sentence plus a fine of $5000. As for the rapist? Life.

    • Reginald O'Malley
      Reginald O'Malley
      February 27, 2014 - 23:02

      Agreed. I was floored by that sentence, especially from a judge I considered our "only hope" in the harsh sentencing department.

  • WOW
    February 27, 2014 - 18:28

    How can you all be so cruel to a person who drove while disqualified. But the storys about child sex offeneders go unnoticed by you all ..come people give your head a shake and comment on the stories that matter.

    February 27, 2014 - 16:37

    Should we change the justice system to say if convicted Punishment will be at your convience. Sorry your Honor but I really can't do my weekends as it Jack frost weekend, perhaps some other time when I am not busy. But don't forget The Cavendish Music Festival or the other Charlottetown Music Festival. I will try and fit my punishment into my schedule and DRIVE IT DOWN TO THE COURTHOUSE .

  • jeremy
    February 27, 2014 - 15:34

    Will the 60 days on week-ends be over before the Cavendish Beach Music Festival, or should we skip that week-end for her too??

    • lou lou annie
      February 28, 2014 - 10:17

      Then it will be Christmas, and no one should be in jail over Christmas.........

    February 27, 2014 - 14:48

    give her some slack guys...everyone makes mistakes!

      February 28, 2014 - 07:36

      Not Repeatedly! That's not mistakes, that's stupidity!

  • dave anger
    February 27, 2014 - 14:23

    do the crime pay for it in time

  • Islander
    February 27, 2014 - 14:16

    Relief from her recent turmoil? The turmoil she caused and brought on by herself? What about the turmoil had she hurt or killed someone when she was drinking and driving? Seems to me someone has to stop blaming everyone else for their "poor decisions" and just pay the price for breaking the law.

  • Simone
    February 27, 2014 - 13:21

    OMG! Responsibility and ownership.If you do anything as a parent,please teach the 2 prior concepts.Everyday people make excuses instead of owning up to a mistake or poor judgement.We all have sick relatives but I would hazard a guess that we don't use their illnesses as an excuse to commit criminal acts. Time to grow up people.

  • Tracey Peters
    February 27, 2014 - 13:17

    I'm really not shocked that she gets to take her family to JACK FROST!!!!!!!! Are you kidding me?????? WOW, the consequences are pretty harsh for this young lady........ This is an absolute joke.....not much wonder people are out breaking the law, not just breaking the law....doing it again and again!!! What a great way to set an example.....

  • Badbogey
    February 27, 2014 - 13:17

    And i suppose she will need to drive to Jack Frost as well, so watch out

  • Tracey Peters
    February 27, 2014 - 13:16

    I'm really not shocked that she gets to take her family to JACK FROST!!!!!!!! Are you kidding me?????? WOW, the consequences are pretty harsh for this young lady........ This is an absolute joke.....not much wonder people are out breaking the law, not just breaking the law....doing it again and again!!! What a great way to set an example.....

  • Townie
    February 27, 2014 - 13:12

    No sympathy for her as she repeatedly has shown she thinks the laws don't apply to her.

  • Regular Joe
    Regular Joe
    February 27, 2014 - 12:32

    This is BS folks there is no justice being served here . People get more time an heaver sentences on this island for driving offenses then they do for Murder , an they call it justice . I don't see the justice in this case . This woman did break the law by driving while disqualified but there are extenuating circumstances claimed here for doing so . Maybe these reasons are true maybe not who can say for sure beyond a reasonable doubt . I have seen thieves and child molesters on this island given more leeway from the courts then this woman is getting . Just another prime example of how poor the justice system is on this island an the fact it's a two tier system .

  • M
    February 27, 2014 - 12:20

    This lady obviously has trouble obeying the law. Perhaps she thinks shes above the rest of us and can do whatever she wishes. I agree with Orr. Perhaps this will teach her a valuable lesson, one that she will respect. I pray she never drinks and drives again.

  • islandlady
    February 27, 2014 - 11:57

    this is a wonderful example of where merely installing a device that would not allow a car to start if a person blew over the limit would be he best solution of all. When a person makes poor choices that do not involve physical harm or harm to possessions, this seems to be the best solution.

    • Amanda
      February 27, 2014 - 20:53

      Do you people not read the articles before you post?! She wasn't caught drunk driving after the first time. She was caught for driving while disqualified...