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How Much Will It Cost? Drunk Driving Charges

Ask Stephen R. Biss, Barrister & Solicitor

Recent Reviews and Ratings by DUI Clients

There are a number of different ways in which one can deal with a drunk driving charge. The cost of a lawyer fluctuates depending on the methods you or your lawyer use.  These tactics vary because of the lawyer, the criminal charge(s) and the details of the case.   

The Cost of not defending yourself against your drunk driving charge  

See also Should I Plead Guilty to a DUI in Canada?

If you are convicted of a drunk driving charge such as impaired driving, over 80 or refusal to give a breath sample there is no possibility of a conditional or absolute discharge. Therefore, conviction of a drunk driving charge will result in a variety of consequences in Ontario, including:

·         Loss of your driver’s licence for at least one year (perhaps longer)

o   The loss of your driver’s licence could restrict you from getting to your place of work. Also, if your position requires you drive you might lose your job.

You may be eligible for early (after 3 months) interlock but that requires a conviction first. Don't plead guilty just to get a conviction early unless you know exactly what you're doing.

·         If you receive your driver’s licence back your car will be required to have an alcohol interlock switch which will also affect others that drive your car.

·         A conviction will cause your car insurance payments to increase. Also, if you are in an accident and are convicted the insurance company will not pay.

·         If you are charged for a second drunk driving offence, a conviction will result in a minimum sentence of jail and minimum driver’s licence suspension of at least three years.

Three years after paying a fine and finishing probation a person can apply for a pardon. However, a pardon is only useful in terms of federal government purposes and it does not affect the Ministry of Transportation.

Pleading guilty with a lawyer

Pleading guilty to a drunk driving charge should be done with a lawyer for several reasons, many of which include the fact that a lawyer understands the techniques that can be used to receive a better sentence in Court. A lawyer is an asset when pleading guilty as they are able to:

·         Meet with the Crown Attorney to find their position on sentencing and advocate for a better position

o   A lawyer might be able to assist you in ascertaining a revised charge, rather than your original charge

o   For Example: A person might be charged with impaired driving under the assumption that they had a blood alcohol content of 285mg/100 mls. Upon meeting with a client, a lawyer might be of the opinion that based on the details of the night in question the client was over the legal limit, but nowhere near 285mg/100 mls. A lawyer can assist the client by negotiating the facts of the case with the Crown Attorney, which might result in a better sentence.   

·         A lawyer’s experience can benefit you as they are able to review and understand the details of the disclosure. This is necessary as details can be exaggerated by the police or the complainant and as such the facts read in Court might not be correct

·         The skills a lawyer has can aid you in finding an empathetic Judge who will understand the unique circumstances of your situation.

·         A lawyer can guide you in the drafting of materials such as character reference letters which might affect the Judge’s deliberation about your sentence

o   By obtaining a lawyer to advocate for your sentence you might be able to receive a sentence that reflects your individual situation. For example, a lawyer can promote:

§  An intermittent jail sentence rather than a consecutive sentence

§  A guilty plea as a first offence rather than a second offence

It should also be noted that Duty Counsel is available for those eligible for Legal Aid who wish to make a guilty plea. However, Duty Counsel does not have the time or the information to make a presentation that achieves the same results that your own retained lawyer can accomplish. 

Cost of a lawyer for a guilty plea

The exact amount a lawyer will charge for a guilty plea will vary depending on a variety of factors. They will require a sufficient fee in order to cover their review of disclosure, meetings with the Crown Attorney, preparation of materials and Court appearances.

The exact cost of retaining a lawyer for a guilty plea will depend on the severity of your charge and the situation. The lawyer must figure out the price after a careful review of information ascertained by review of additional disclosure, meetings with the Crown and Court attendances.

Pleading not guilty with a lawyer

There are many situations in which pleading not guilty with a lawyer will bring an accused person the best results. In order to defend a client to the best of the lawyer’s abilities, the Attorney will need to study the disclosure and meet with the Crown to make an accurate estimate of the length of the trial and any pre-trial motions. After the trial date is set the lawyer will mark days off on his or her calendar for trial. When this is completed the client will be required to pay their lawyer the full trial day amount even if the Crown’s case collapses or if you change your mind and plead guilty. 

It is essential to defend when you are not guilty of a crime you are charged with.

The Cost of defending yourself

It is strongly recommended that you retain a lawyer rather than attempting to defend yourself. This is necessary as a lawyer has the training and education to assert your legal rights appropriately in Court. Without the expertise of a lawyer it is difficult for a defendant to operate in Court without being inappropriate to the Judge, Crown, witness, or police. 

However, there are some situations where a person is not able to afford a lawyer, and you have been refused Legal Aid. In this situation, it is recommended that you hire a lawyers’ advice for a few hours to discuss trial procedures. Also you can receive advice about which pieces of evidence/confessions are admissible or inadmissible or how to conduct a trial within a trial (voir dire). 

If you decide to defend yourself there is an advantage in saying “not guilty” and nothing more. In Canada, the onus is on the Crown to prove that you are guilty. Therefore, by saying nothing the Crown is forced to prove the case against you, which they may not be able to do. Often, people who defend themselves hurt their case by calling evidence or taking the stand, which assists the Crown in filling in the holes of their case.

There are some situations where the specific details of your case make you morally innocent but you are deemed guilty according to law. It is always strongly recommended that you retain a lawyer, however, in this situation a lawyer’s assistance is a definite asset in pleading not guilty.

Fees that might influence the outcome of your criminal matter: Experts

Some tactics that a lawyer might use could include the use of outside experts. Experts such as toxicologists, accident reconstruction people and other technical specialists might make the difference in the outcome of your trial. As a client you will be charged for any examination of breath machines, scientific experiments on the client’s body, preparation of reports, affidavits and Court appearances. It is important to inquire about any experts your lawyer might use and any cost there might be for hiring them.

What is a retainer?

A retainer is when a client pays most of the legal fee up front by a bank draft. That amount is deposited into a trust account. This money still belongs to you as a client; however it goes into a special (but pooled)  trust bank account and your lawyer will send statements whenever they pay legal fees out of the trust account. This account covers the fees owed to your lawyer, as well as any experts or extra expense your case requires. It is important to note that there are always surprises during criminal law proceedings. At times extra costs can be identified or a trial can be extended by adjournments, at this time your lawyer will ask you to restore the retainer. There are also circumstances where the entire retainer will not be used because the Crown’s case collapses. A retainer is extremely important so that your lawyer can fight your case to the best of their ability without being concerned with payments.

Your lawyer will require that you give them a retainer before they begin working for you. Trust is essential between a client and their lawyer when a retainer is utilized. This means that you must choose your lawyer very carefully. Also, it is important that your lawyer has experience in the field where they are defending you.  You must keep in touch with your lawyer and you should never be afraid to book an appointment with your lawyer to be updated on the progress of your case as well as any past and future costs.

What is the best way to find out about the cost?

The best way to receive an estimate of the cost of hiring a lawyer to defend you against a drunk driving charge is to meet with a lawyer face to face for at least one hour. This is necessary so that the lawyer gets a full picture of the kinds of defences they can use. A Lawyer needs time to review disclosure and meet with you in order to give an estimate of the number of days in Court and the variety of expert witnesses that will need to be retained. A lawyer cannot give you an estimate over the phone because they do not know the extent of your case.


Stephen R. Biss, Barrister & Solicitor

470 Hensall Circle, Suite 303
Mississauga, Ontario
L5A 3V4

905-273-3322 or 1-877-273-3322


Advertisement. Any legal opinions expressed at this site relate to the Province of Ontario, Canada only. If you reside or carry on business in any other jurisdiction please consult a lawyer, solicitor, or attorney in your own jurisdiction. WARNING: All information contained herein is provided for the purpose of providing basic information only and should not be construed as formal legal advice. The author disclaims any and all liability resulting from reliance upon such information. You are strongly encouraged to seek and retain professional legal advice before relying upon any of the information contained herein.