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Can a Paralegal Fight Impaired Driving Charges in Canada?

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If Canadian police arrest you for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs, you’re probably going to have a lot to worry about. In the near term, you might wonder how long police will hold you in custody, how you’ll get home, and how the vehicle impoundment and roadside driver’s license suspension might affect you. Longer-term concerns might include how to fight the charges, what happens if you lose your license, and how much the ordeal might cost.

The potential financial impact of a DUI is typically a primary concern. When considering ways to limit its cost you’ll undoubtedly wonder whether you need to hire a skilled DUI defence lawyer. You might also wonder whether you could cut the costs of your defence by hiring a paralegal to fight the impaired driving charges. After all, haven’t Canadian provinces given paralegals more authority to address legal matters?

The criminal defence DUI lawyers of TorontoDUI will tell you that, yes, many provinces have been expanding the scope of legal issues that paralegals can address. This holds especially true in Ontario, the only province that fully regulates and licenses paralegals. As to whether a paralegal can help you fight DUI charges, the answer is to a limited extent in some provinces, though definitely not in the courtroom.

Let’s look closer at the question of using a paralegal to help fight DUI charges. We’ll tell you what paralegals do, give you a provincial breakdown of a paralegal’s legal authority and then provide you with our take on the issue.

What Exactly is a Paralegal

In general, paralegals assist lawyers in administering and providing legal services. Traditionally, paralegals worked under the supervision of lawyers but did not provide direct legal advice or representation to clients. That’s been changing in recent years, and some provinces now allow paralegals to provide limited client legal advice and representation.

In those provinces that allow it, a paralegal might be able to give you some legal advice, research case law, and conduct other actions to help you prepare a defence. Currently, Ontario is the only province that allows paralegals to represent clients in criminal court. However, this is limited to summary conviction offences that carry a maximum penalty of six months or less of imprisonment. This does not include DUI, which is a hybrid offence that carries a much higher maximum punishment. Thus, an Ontario paralegal could help you prepare a DUI defence but cannot represent you during a trial, which is when you might need the most critical legal counselling.

Paralegal Defence from a Provincial Standpoint

As for whether a paralegal can help you fight a DUI in other provinces, here’s a brief rundown of the scope of their legal authority:

  • Alberta — cannot give legal advice or engage in any practice of law.
  • British Columbia — under the direct supervision of a lawyer, can give legal advice and represent clients before tribunals and family law mediations. So, no real help with a DUI.
  • Manitoba — must work under the direct supervision of a lawyer.
  • New Brunswick — must work under the supervision of a lawyer and cannot conduct activities perceived as the practice of law.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador — cannot give legal advice, and all work must be conducted under a lawyer’s supervision.
  • Nova Scotia — all paralegal work conducted under the direction of a lawyer.
  • Prince Edward Island — cannot engage in the practice of law activities.
  • Quebec — prepare documents and conduct research under the supervision of a lawyer.
  • Saskatchewan — must work under a lawyer’s supervision and cannot engage in activities that might be perceived as the unauthorized practice of law.
  • Northwest Territories/Yukon/Nunavut — limited formal regulation, but must work under a lawyer’s supervision.

Thus, Ontario paralegals generally have the widest scope in their ability to potentially help someone accused of DUI. Paralegals in many Ontario law firms help lawyers defend DUI clients by investigating case details, conducting research, managing documentation, and addressing other tasks to aid defence efforts. In general, though, any legal advice a paralegal might provide to a DUI defendant is probably coming from a supervising lawyer.

Would You Want a Paralegal Defending Your DUI Charges?

OK, so you might be able to get a paralegal to help you prepare a defence against a DUI in some provinces. However, they will not be able to represent you in court, where it might matter most. Additionally, if you could save some money by getting a paralegal to defend your DUI in court, you’ve got to ask yourself if it would it be worth it. After all, wouldn’t that be like hiring a general practitioner physician to perform your brain surgery or getting a dental hygienist to perform your root canal?

If you’re facing a possible conviction on DUI charges, you want the best legal assistance you can find — a DUI defence lawyer with a stellar record for securing positive outcomes for their clients. Yes, hiring a DUI lawyer will be expensive, but it will be worth is if they can prevent a costly conviction.

How costly is a first-time DUI conviction? Consider this:

  • $1,000 fine.
  • One-year driver’s license suspension.
  • Mandatory enrollment in Ontario’s “Back on Track” education/treatment program, with a $634 fee.
  • Likely enrollment in an Ignition Interlock Program, with at least $1,000 in fees.
  • “High Risk” annual insurance premium increases ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 for up to six years.
  • $281 in fees for driver’s license reinstatement.
  • A permanent criminal record that can jeopardize employment and educational opportunities.
  • Alternative transportation costs during license suspension.

For Outstanding DUI Defence, Contact TorontoDUI

We trust we have disabused you of any notions about seeking a DUI defence with a paralegal. With a 15-plus-year record of successfully defending thousands of Greater Toronto Area clients from DUI-related charges, contact TorontoDUI for a free consultation.

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