Charged with DUI? You Probably Need a Lawyer.
If you have been charged in the Cobourg area with a drinking and driving offence, often referred to as a DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol) offence, you probably need a lawyer.
DUI offences in Ontario are technical and can be pretty complicated. And the consequences are not trivial. If you are convicted you will either pay a fine or go to jail and you will definitely lose your driving privileges. How long you lose your driving privileges depends on a number of factors.
If this is your first DUI offence, the court will prohibit you from driving for one year. In Ontario, this one year is followed by a second year of either not driving or driving with the Ignition Interlock device. Ontario also has the Stream A program under which you may be eligible to drive again sooner. If you are in fact eligible for the Stream A program and can afford it, you could only lose your driving privileges for three more months, followed by nine months of driving with the Interlock device on your vehicle’s ignition. But to be eligible for Stream A you have to plead guilty to the offence within 89 days of being charged. But should you plead guilty? Pleading guilty will leave you with a criminal record and the Stream program doesn’t come cheap. You will have to pay a hefty fine and victim fine surcharge, pay for the Back on Track remedial measures program, pay for the lease of the Interlock device, pay to have your licence reinstated and pay increased insurance premiums.
If this is your second DUI offence, you may be looking at a jail sentence as well as a three-year driving prohibition followed by a second three years of either no driving or driving with the Interlock device. Ontario has a program called Stream D for second-time offenders through which you would only be off the road for nine months, followed by 18 months of driving with the Ignition Interlock device. With Stream D like with Stream A, you have to plead guilty within 89 days of being charged and you face the same (expensive) requirements for Back on Track, Interlock etc. Other criteria also apply. And if you are facing jail (which for a second offence you probably are), Stream D eligibility does not prevent the jail sentence.
For both the first time and second time offenders there is the time pressure to plead guilty within 89 days of being charged, in order to be driving again sooner. You may be one of those people for whom pleading guilty and driving again a little sooner may, in fact, be the better option than going to trial. However, you may end up pleading guilty unnecessarily. If you are innocent you should not plead guilty. And if you have a viable defence you should also consider not pleading guilty. This is why you probably need a lawyer. A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to advise you of any defences available to you and of strength of the Crown’s case against you. This is information you should have before you decide whether to plead guilty or to fight the charges at trial.
A Lawyer Knowledgeable About DUI Law
Sometimes people charged with a DUI offence will call the only lawyer they know, the lawyer who handled their home purchase, or will or business matter. But that lawyer is probably not knowledgeable about DUI law.
DUI law is criminal law so at the very least, you need a lawyer who practises criminal law. But DUI law is a very technical and complex area of law in Ontario so not all lawyers who practise criminal law will also deal with DUI cases. What you need is a criminal lawyer with solid experience in the practice of drinking and driving law in Ontario.
How to Find That Knowledgeable Lawyer
For most people, doing an online search for criminal lawyers who defend people charged with DUI/drinking & driving/drunk driving offences, is the first step. If your matter will be in the Cobourg court, you will probably want to find a lawyer who is familiar with the Cobourg criminal court’s procedures. Most lawyers have websites and a website can give you a first impression. For example, our law firm, Aitken Robertson, has a website that is chock-full of information on DUI law.
Shopping for a lawyer online, is not unlike shopping online for any consumer service, you will want to have a look at the “ratings” and “reviews” on the lawyers and law firms which you are considering hiring.
If you are “old school” you can still find lawyers through the Yellow Pages. However, many lawyers no longer list themselves there and the ads won’t give you much information about the lawyers.
You can also contact the Law Society of Ontario for a list of lawyers who practice criminal law in the Cobourg area. (You can Google the Law Society of Ontario or find it in the Yellow Pages or phone book.) However, all you will get is a list of names and contact information. You won’t get any sense of what those lawyers are like or how knowledgeable about DUI law they are.
The Knowledgeable Lawyer Who is Also the Right Lawyer for You
Checking out potential lawyers’ websites and online ratings and reviews is a good way to get some good information and point you in the right direction. However, it’s also important to talk to the lawyer in person. The right lawyer for you is someone knowledgeable about the area of law under which you are charged and is someone you can work with, someone you can talk to. To determine if the lawyer is the right lawyer for you, you need to have a conversation, if not in person, then by telephone. Actually talking to the lawyer is how you find out if this is a lawyer who understands both you and your legal matter. A lawyer at Aitken Robertson can provide you with a free 30-minute consultation during which you can decide if that is who is the right lawyer for you. (See below for contact information.)
What Will This Lawyer Cost and How Will You Pay?
When you have that first conversation with the lawyer, you will talk about your case, but you should also ask what this lawyer will charge you and what your payment options are. What are that lawyer’s/firm’s billing practices?
Typically, law firms bill by the hour, which makes it difficult to predict how much the final cost to you will be. Hourly billing means that you will be billed for even small increments of an hour spent on your case.
The firm of Aitken Robertson does not bill in this way. Aitken Robertson uses a block fee billing system. With the Aitken Robertson billing system you are told at the beginning what your fee would be depending on outcome. Aitken Robertson will quote block fee amounts upfront. The block fees quoted to you take into account what type of case yours is, the complexity of your case, what course your case may take and the type of outcome ultimately achieved. These amounts will include all the work typically done in a case such as yours.
Aitken Robertson offers reasonable monthly payment plans because few people have spare money lying around with which to pay their legal fees all at once. These monthly payment plans are interest-free.
Unlike most law firms, Aitken Robertson will not charge you extra for photocopying, postage, mileage, phone calls or meetings with your lawyer. If you want to call your lawyer to ask a question or meet with your lawyer to discuss something, you will not be charged extra for this time.
As mentioned above, the Aitken Robertson block fees depend on the outcome of the case. If your case finishes without the necessity of a trial, for example with a plea deal acceptable to you, then Aitken Robertson’s block fees will be lower than if your matter did go to trial.
If your Aitken Robertson lawyer obtains a withdrawal of your criminal charges (which would be the best outcome possible), then the block fee will be higher than if your case concluded with a plea to those charges.
If your DUI case goes to trial, then the block fee will be higher than if it had resolved with a plea deal. If an Aitken Robertson lawyer represents you in a trial, the cost of a second or subsequent day of trial (if your trial is longer than a day) is 55% of the cost of the first day. In other words, the second day of trial costs less than the first day.
Once You Have Found and Retained the Right Lawyer for You
Once you have settled on and retained a lawyer for your Cobourg DUI case, you need to stay in touch with your lawyer. Criminal court moves more quickly than, say civil court. Adjournments are only weeks (not months) apart. Decisions have to be made and many of those decisions have to be made within the first 89 days to preserve your rights for Stream A or Stream D should you ultimately choose to resolve with a plea deal. If during the course of your case you have questions or have something you want to discuss with your lawyer, your lawyer should be easily accessible. The right DUI lawyer for you is a lawyer who has knowledge and experience in the area of DUI law, who understands you as well as your case, and is a lawyer you can talk to when you need to talk. If you haven’t found that lawyer yet, try talking to one of our lawyers at Aitken Robertson ˗ we offer a free 30-minute consultation. You can contact us by calling us at our toll-free number: 1-800-668-1657.