"I need a really cheap DUI lawyer."
"I don't have the money to pay a retainer up front to a lawyer to defend a DUI charge."
"I'm not eligible for Legal Aid and my Legal Aid Appeal has been refused."
"I've lost my job and I've got debts - how can I be expected to pay for a criminal DUI attorney?"
"The lawyer I want doesn't accept Legal Aid."
"The lawyer I want is on strike from Legal Aid."
The Government of Ontario may be offering you "eligibility" for a Stream A disposition of at least 3 months absolute driving prohibition followed by at least 9 months interlock. You can't get it unless you plead guilty within the first 90 days. Even then you may not get it. If you plead not guilty, run a trial and lose you may still be "eligible" for a Stream B disposition, 6 months absolute driving prohibition followed by 12 months interlock. If you can't afford interlock you are looking at a minimum of 24 months driving prohibition. Interlock is very expensive.
When I'm Duty Counsel about twice a month at the Brampton Courthouse I hear these comments. People know they need a criminal DUI law lawyer of their choice but they can't raise the money for a retainer. They realize the importance of hiring an expert gladiator to fight for them in Court but they simply can't pay for it. They know they need expert witnesses but they cannot afford them.
They decide to set a trial date to defend themselves "With or without Counsel." This means that the trial will go ahead as scheduled whether they have a lawyer or not - no adjournment is likely to be granted if they can't find a lawyer available on that date. They show up on a confirmation date or for trial with no options. The Crown and the police encourage them to plead guilty. The Crown implies it's a good deal for them to plead guilty. They go to speak to Duty Counsel who says Don't Plead Guilty!" but, tells them "I can't do trials as Duty Counsel!"
Duty Counsel is really limited as to the time they can give you - just a few minutes. They can't do trials. They can't teach you or your parent or friend to become a lawyer in 10 minutes.
It's a big problem.
There are many tactical decisions that have to be made before and during a trial - do I ask for more disclosure, do I serve a Charter of Rights Notice, do I subpoena a witness, do I hire an expert, do I argue a particular defence, do I call evidence, should the accused file an affidavit or take the witness stand? As Duty Counsel please don't expect me to give such tactical advice - I can't. I can only give that to clients who properly retain me as their lawyer.
It is not wise to defend yourself, but if you must do so you have no choice. Don't plead guilty if you are not guilty. Imagine what will happen if you get a second DUI, you will go to jail for at least 30 days.
Ask Stephen R. Biss, Barrister & Solicitor
Stephen R. Biss, Barrister & Solicitor
470 Hensall Circle, Suite 303
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.