Brian Ducharme
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The Cost of DUIs: Taxis Never Looked So Sensible

rosalind Conway
Law Times
May 16, 2011

What does it cost to plead guilty to a drinking and driving offence? It's going to be easily $20,000 or more if your client wants to be back on the road as soon as possible. A Criminal Mind with Rosalind Conway When a new client walks in the door and you're discussing the cost of going to trial or pleading guilty, it's vital to review the many consequences of being found guilty. Here's some basic advice, then, for a first-time offender in Ontario charged with impaired by alcohol, over 80 or refusing or failing to provide a breath sample.

Costs include the minimum $1,000 fine and $150 victim surcharge; increased insurance rates; the Back on Track program; the licence reinstatement fee; ignition interlock and installation; and your fees.

For a first offence, there's more involved than that minimum penalty of a $1,000 fine and a prohibition. Probation is unlikely but possible. A criminal record is a given. Conditional discharges aren't available in Ontario for clients in need of curative treatment.

The judge isn't obliged to impose the minimum penalty. Jail of up to 18 months is possible when the Crown elects to proceed summarily, and section 255.1 of the Criminal Code makes readings in excess of 160 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood an aggravating factor on sentencing. An accident or erratic driving can increase the penalty.

When clients are arrested, they receive notice of a three-month administrative suspension of their licence. Upon conviction, the prohibition ranges between one and three years, but the client may be back on the road in three months with an early guilty plea, registration in the Back on Track program, and an interlock device. The prohibition runs concurrently with the one-year provincial suspension.

The increased insurance rates are substantial. Although the Ministry of Transportation web site gives an estimate of $13,500 over a three-year period for an otherwise good driver, a client might pay an extra $5,000 a year.

The ministry's mandatory Back on Track program is now $578 plus HST. As it's popular, the client should arrange enrolment as soon as possible. The ministry web site cautions that it can take 11 months to complete the program, depending on the assessment of the client.

The licence reinstatement fee, called the administrative monetary penalty, is currently $150. The ministry web site estimates the cost of the interlock for one year at $1,300. But the cost of obtaining it for one car for one year may be closer to $2,000, including HST. The ignition interlock must be installed in each car that the client drives, even a boss' vehicle or the company truck.

Although the interlock is required if the client wants to drive after the one-year prohibition has expired, it's now available after three months unless the court orders otherwise. But the client must plead guilty within three months of being charged and must prove registration in the Back on Track program.

So there are potential advantages to a guilty plea within three months of being charged. First, the three-month administrative suspension will overlap with the mandatory one-year minimum prohibition. Second, the client who pleads guilty early is eligible for the interlock program in three months unless the court orders otherwise.

Third, the client would only have to have the interlock for nine months. But such clients must be registered in the Back on Track program.

By contrast, an offender who pleads guilty after three months or who is found guilty would have a minimum six-month waiting period before becoming eligible to drive with an interlock and would have to have the device for 12 months. Note that the Crown can ask the judge to make an order that the client not be eligible for early enrolment in the interlock program.

If clients want to wait 12 months before driving, they must use the interlock for the next 12 months. If they forego driving for two years, they won't have to use the interlock but they'll still have the other expenses.

Taking a taxi after imbibing looks more sensible than ever. If the client missed that judgment call, taking the bus for a few years looks good, too.

This is a complex area to give advice on. I'm indebted to David Gilhooly, who restricts his practice to such matters, for reviewing my column.

  For free answers to your questions about how we can help if you have been arrested for DUI, please call us at (519) 977-5500 or complete this online contact form.