Like the cost of hiring a lawyer in any other criminal case, the cost of defending a DUI case depends on many factors.
How are DUI cases billed?
At BPS, as is our practice with most criminal matters, DUIs are charged on a block fee basis. This means your lawyer will quote you a fixed price for all the services and representation required in a single package rather than billing by the hour.
This block fee can be further broken down depending on certain milestones in a case. For example, there may be one block fee if your case is resolved without ever having to set a trial date while a further block fee applies if the case proceeds to trial.
Block fees will typically cover all legal fees associated with a summary conviction trial in the Ontario Court of Justice that lasts one day or less. Additional trial days would incur further block fees. As the complexity of the law around DUI cases has steadily increased, it is now common to see DUI trials running two days on average and sometimes longer.
Length of trial
While most summary conviction criminal cases can be completed in a single trial day, DUIs have become increasingly complex over the years often involving highly technical constitutional arguments and the testimony of multiple police and civilian witnesses. As a result, it is not unusual for DUI cases to last two or more trial days and, not surprisingly, the longer a trial goes the more expensive it becomes.
If your case involves serious bodily harm or death, or if you have a lengthy record for previous DUI cases, the crown might choose to proceed with your case by the more serious indictable offence route. In this case your trial may be in the Superior Court of Justice and could even involve a jury trial if that is your preference. Superior Court trials are typically procedurally more complicated than Ontario Court of Justice cases and therefore take longer to complete and have higher costs associated with them.
Law school is just the very beginning of a great lawyer’s education. Particularly in the complex and rapidly evolving field of DUI law, the most important learning your lawyer will have done is over their years in practice and their defence of hundreds of similar cases.
Younger, less experienced, lawyers can still provide excellent representation and do so at a reduced cost. A client who feels more confident with a lawyer who has decades of experience will end up paying a higher price for those years of accrued knowledge.
At BPS our lawyers cover a range of experience and therefore also charge a range of fees. When you meet with your BPS lawyer for the initial client consultation, discuss with him or her the range of options available to you and be open and honest about your financial budget. This will allow us to steer you to the lawyer best suited for both the particular complexities of your case and the limitations of your wallet.
Complexity of your case
Not all DUI cases are equal.
Cases involving bodily harm or death can often involve complex accident reconstruction necessitating a review of technical and expert testimony to determine whether the source of the accident was attributable to driver impairment or some other form of road condition or mechanical malfunction. Modern vehicles are equipped with airplane-style ‘black boxes’ from which a tremendous amount of valuable data can be obtained to help determine whether an accident has a mechanical cause associated with it.
Virtually every DUI case will involve some form of constitutional argument based upon alleged violations of the Charter of Rights of Freedoms. These can include arguments about the right to counsel, right to silence, unlawful search and seizure or unlawful detention. Charter arguments must be prepared with great care and require filing detailed materials with the Judge and Crown Attorney in advance of the trial. Many of these arguments necessitate a mini-trial known as a voir dire in which witnesses testify at a ‘trial within a trial’ to determine the legality and admissibility of key pieces of evidence. Some Charter applications, such as whether your case has been tried within a lawfully reasonable time, can even arise after the trial itself is completed but before the sentence is imposed.
DUI law is one of the most rapidly changing areas with new and tougher legislation being introduced regularly. Recent amendments designed to deal with drug-impaired driving also made very considerable changes in how traditional alcohol-impaired driving cases are dealt with. Many of the changes push the limits of what may be constitutionally permissible and are likely to lead to legal challenges against entire sections of the new law. As attacks on the legislation make their way through trial and appeal courts, the legal landscape is constantly changing, and it is critical that your lawyer remain up to speed with the latest precedent-setting cases.
Some defences rely on the professional opinion of non-legal experts. This can include a toxicologist providing evidence about how and when alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream or speaking to the impact of impairment at a given blood alcohol concentration. In cases where it is alleged that an accused “refused” to provide a valid breath sample, we will often be told that the client suffered from a medical condition that might have made it impossible to produce the sustained breath required for police machines to get a proper reading. In such cases it is important to have appropriate medical evidence as to the nature of the health challenge and how it might have impacted a client’s ability to blow into the machine. These experts might be a client’s existing medical specialist, or they may be doctors our firm has referred you to in order to conduct appropriate testing. In either case, the costs associated with compensating an expert witness are added to the price of your case.
While amendments to DUI laws have largely eliminated what were known as ‘bolus drinking’ defences, there still remain circumstances where the evidence of an expert toxicologist can be helpful. This can include situations in which it is important to assess the impact of alcohol consumption at a particular moment in time or in dealing with other causes of seeming impairment that in fact do not relate to alcohol consumption. When it comes to drug-impaired driving, an expert understanding of how a particular drug is absorbed by the body and impacts behaviour can be very important to the defence of a DUI case.
Sentencing for DUI cases
Whether it is because you chose to plead guilty or you were convicted after a trial, the work of a DUI lawyer is not complete until we have obtained for you the very best sentence possible under the circumstances. In cases where alcoholism is a recurring problem, BPS lawyers can help you access assessment and counselling services to ensure that the underlying condition which lead you to drink is being addressed. Judges are far more likely to be lenient with an offender who has demonstrated insight into their problem and already taken steps to address the issues that those who simply show up to court unprepared for a sentencing hearing.
The DUI Consultation
For all of the above reasons, the cost of hiring a DUI lawyer in Toronto is highly variable and dependent on many complex interrelated factors. The best first step for to take if you are facing a DUI charge is to reach out to our team of experience Toronto DUI lawyers for an Initial Client Consultation.
At this meeting we will review the particular facts of your case and assess with you all the many factors and potential defences available. We will lay out a strategic road map for your case and give you a firm quote for the cost of your case divided into the critical anticipated milestones. We will negotiate a payment plan that works with your budget and ensure that you stay informed and engaged with your case every step of the way.