Uber driver mystery after man found 'abandoned'
UBER driver Jatin Gupta says he was left abandoned at midnight in a lonely industrial and bushland area, and on the phone to his wife trying to work out where he was when police suddenly pulled in behind him.
Police accused him of having reversed his Nissan Pathfinder when intoxicated. Two officers said they saw the vehicle reversing a short distance as they drove down River Rd at Bundamba.
But Gupta, 32, who had an alcohol reading of 0.207 - four times the legal limit - defended the charge that he drove when under the influence.
"I wasn't driving the car," he said.
He did agree he was drunk that night but in his hearing before Ipswich Magistrates Court maintained he had been driven to the remote location by a man he met at the Brisbane Treasury Casino.
The man was to drive him from the Brisbane CBD to Gupta's home at Edens Landing. But apparently left him there before he'd woken up.
When police came across the very intoxicated Gupta in his Nissan Pathfinder, he was 40 km from his home.
Police prosecutor Jack Scott alleged Gupta drove when under the influence with a reading of 0.207 at 12.05am on March 27.
Heard before magistrate Melanie Ho, Gupta said he got frightened when the headlights of a vehicle approach in the deserted area so he quickly went from the passenger seat and into the driver's seat.
Evidence from Constable Scott Vince said that was where he found Gupta seated with the seat belt fastened.
"The vehicle was parked horizontal across the street. The front wheels were up on the kerb, its lights on," Constable Vince said.
Footage from Constable Vince's body worn camera played in court showed Gupta seated in the driver's seat.
"What are you doing down here, mate?" Constable Vince said.
"I'm talking to my wife," Gupta replied.
Gupta told the officer he had three or four drinks. When Constable Vince wanted Gupta's licence, he gave him a credit card.
When asked again for his licence, Gupta gave another card.
"That's a credit card, again. Stop mucking around," Constable Vince said.
When asked to do a breath test, it took three attempts at the device.
"Blow, blow, blow, blow..." encouraged the officer.
Questioned by Mr Scott, Constable Vince said he was about 50m from the Nissan when he saw it reverse.
Later, when he was cross-examining Constable Vince, Gupta maintained the officer would not have been able to see his Nissan's lights from the approaching angle.
He could not recall if he saw reversing lights, only that the Nissan moved 1-2m.
Constable Jane Henderson said it was an isolated area and she first saw its headlights from quite a distance away.
"As we stopped, its reverse lights were on," she said.
"The vehicle (engine) was going. I turned the engine off."
Constable Henderson said the Nissan did not reverse far, probably a metre.
"It slowly moved backwards. I saw the reverse lights," she said.
Gupta's wife Ashu Gupta said she got a call from him, saying that some person was taking him home.
"He was out with our cousin that night. That the other person was in the driver's seat taking him home.
"At midnight, he told me I don't know where that person is," she said.
"We were working out the location. He sees the car coming and he got scared.
"He was assaulted a few years ago.
"He wanted to secure himself.
"He locked the car. He said someone is behind me, I need to be careful."
Mrs Gupta said she did not remember him saying that he'd move the car, just that he wanted to be ready for anything.
She said they were talking about the man who just left him there.
"I know he was not driving as he was on the passenger seat," Mrs Gupta said.
"I know my husband. In those kind of situations, he will not tell me a lie."
Gupta told the court he had many drinks with his cousin and then met a guy who said he could drop him home.
"I was sleeping in the car. I woke up. My wife had been calling me many times," Gupta said.
"It's a totally strange, empty place. A very dark place.
"I was stranded there.
"I didn't do anything wrong. I'm a professional driver."
After the summing up by Gupta and Mr Scott, Ms Ho found the Uber driver to be guilty of driving under the influence.
And he had been seen by police to reverse the car between 1-2m.
Gupta pleaded for some leniency, saying he and his wife were in a desperate financial situation.
He said they lost their restaurant business, his wife had been diagnosed with a brain tumour, and they had a lot of debt.
He now worked as an Uber driver and with no licence would lose his job.
Magistrate Ho, took all facts into consideration.
She said that although it was a significant reading, it occurred on an isolated road, he had no prior history, and the circumstances that included being abandoned there, were quite unusual.
Gupta was sentenced to six-month's probation. No conviction recorded.