A man who was caught drunk driving for a third time - and blew his highest reading yet - has escaped jail time.
Shaun Johansen, 32, faced the Ballarat Magistrates' Court on charges, including driving under the influence, relating to a driving matter near Warrenheip last year.
Police prosecutor Senior Constable Giles Brown told the court the man was located at 9.14pm on 28 March after he was observed to be "driving erratically" on the Western Highway.
"The accused was observed to be unsteady on his feet, and slurring his words and had bloodshot eyes," Senior Constable Brown said.
"[The police informant] observed him to be incoherent at times."
The court heard checks on Johansen's licence showed he had a .0 alcohol condition since February 2020.
He later blew in excess of .082 in a breath test at the police station, his highest reading of any occasion where he had been caught drunk driving.
His licence was immediately suspended and vehicle impounded for $1,225.
The following day he told police "he had no recollection of events" and had around 12 beers watching football with friends before driving.
Defence for the man told the court that night was the first time Johansen had been out with friends since becoming his father's carer after a stroke.
"Not an easy two years by any account ... the more he drank the more anxious he became after his father at home," the defence said.
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The court also heard the difficulties of maintaining full time work as a prison guard and caring for his father were compounded by a house fire where he lived, and then the pressures of COVID lockdowns.
"You can imagine how that piled on to the difficulties they were already facing," the defence said.
"He was isolated ... it's fair to say this is a difficult situation you wouldn't wish on anyone.
"He describes it to be a struggle to look after his father when it was a struggle for him to get out of bed in the morning."
Defence for Johansen told the magistrate to consider the progress he had made, and said he had since quit his job, committed to rehabilitation, and sought help for his mental health and alcohol addiction.
"He has made a number of changes with the support of his family to address the issues that [contributed] to this offending] ... his father is now moving into an aged care facility and being cared for by professionals," the defence said.
"He's expressed remorse in his plea and openly when giving instructions."
Johansen appeared in court with his mother in support.
Magistrate Ron Saines said he appeared to be on the "right path".
"This is a very serious situation, your use and abuse of alcohol to deal with the circumstances that arose after your father's [stroke] and your work and COVID environment ... alcohol is a drug that brings a great deal of damage to any person when misused," the magistrate said.
"It can derail anyone's mental health when used to excess."
Mr Saines told the man he could have been handed jail time.
"The dangerousness is not just to you and your mental health, the dangerousness is however you got from Werribee to Warrenheip you did without killing yourself or anyone else," he said.
"If there had been some pedestrian or motor vehiclist injured because of your state ... you'd be facing five or ten years imprisonment."
Johansen nodded and told the magistrate, "every bad thing that has ever happened to me has happened because of drinking - so I understand".
Johansen's licence was disqualified for four years. He received a recorded conviction and was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine and $129.30 in court costs.
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