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Should I Plead Guilty to Impaired Driving Charges?

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If Ontario police arrest you for impaired driving-related charges, you might be tempted to plead guilty during your first court appearance, especially if it's your first DUI arrest. Whatever the charges are based on— blood alcohol readings over 80, failing to provide a blood or breath sample, physical impairment, drug evaluation, or care and control—you might believe that the police have you nailed and that it is futile to fight it in court. You might also think it's in your best interest to accept the punishment quickly so you can move forward with your life, and believe that the penalties will be less severe for pleading guilty than they will be if you get convicted in a trial.

Whatever your line of thinking, the skilled DUI criminal defence lawyers at TorontoDUI recommend that you think twice before succumbing to such temptation. First off, no matter whether you plead guilty or are found guilty at trial, you face the same minimum penalties and costly impacts on your life, which include:

  • $1,000 fine;
  • One-year driver's license suspension;
  • $634 fee for mandatory enrollment in Ontario's “Back on Track" education/treatment program;
  • Ignition Interlock program fees of $1,000 at a minimum;
  • “High Risk" annual insurance premium increases ranging from $2,000 to $10,000, which can last up to six years;
  • Minimum $281 in fees for driver's license reinstatement;
  • Costs for alternative transportation during license suspension; and
  • Perhaps of most significance, a permanent criminal record that can jeopardize employment and educational opportunities.

An Effective Defense Can Lead to a Better Outcome

Second, just because the police seem to have enough evidence to convince a judge or jury to convict you, an effective DUI criminal defence may be able to get the charges dropped or otherwise settled in your favour. Depending upon the type of DUI charges, to gain a DUI conviction, the Crown must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt" that:

  • You were operating a motor vehicle while impaired.
  • You had care and control of a motor vehicle while impaired.
  • You willfully refused a breath or blood sample demand after driving a motor vehicle while impaired.

While this may seem straightforward, police are human and make mistakes, evidence can be faulty, and actions taken by you and/or the police before, during, and after your arrest may raise enough reasonable doubt to negate a conviction. An experienced DUI criminal defence lawyer will examine every element of your case to seek out potential mistakes, faulty evidence, and any actions taken by you or the police that might raise reasonable doubt. If found, your DUI lawyer has valuable defensive tools they can use to secure withdrawn charges, reduced charges, mitigated penalties, dismissals, acquittals, or other positive outcomes. By pleading guilty, you lose all such potential positive options.

You Might Not Know that the Police Made Mistakes

Police must follow specific procedures during every element of their interaction with the people they arrest. They also need to ensure that a suspect's Charter Rights are not violated before, during, or after an arrest. If you are arrested, you might not have any idea that police failed to follow correct procedures and/or violated your Charter Rights. By pleading guilty, you'll never know, and you might miss an opportunity to secure a positive outcome from your DUI charges.

Skilled DUI lawyers are intimately familiar with Charter Rights, and the procedures police must carry out during a DUI arrest. They will carefully review the details of your arrest to determine whether the police made procedural mistakes or violated your Charter Rights. If so, your lawyer can use this information to get the judge to nullify related evidence or, in some cases, get the charges dismissed solely based on a mistake or Charter Rights violation.

You Might Not Recognize Faulty Evidence or Reasonable Doubt

Another reason to withhold an early guilty plea is the potential for faulty evidence or reasonable doubt. Criminal DUI court cases are complex, and evidence isn't always clear-cut. A competent DUI lawyer can recognize flawed evidence and other case details that can raise reasonable doubts about the Crown's evidence. You might be unable to uncover any problems through your own review of the evidence and case details and subsequently decide your case is already lost. If there is any possibility of avoiding a criminal DUI conviction, you need to find it to avoid the severe penalties and disruption that come with it. And your best hope at finding a way out of your legal jeopardy is through a thorough assessment of case details with a qualified DUI defence lawyer.

The Crown Might Know its Case is Weak or Flawed

Crown prosecutors might know that their DUI case against you is weak due to flawed evidence, procedural mistakes, or factors that raise the spectre of reasonable doubt. They're not going to tell you that, though. In fact, they might even entice you to plead guilty by suggesting that you can get behind the wheel quicker by gaining early admission into the ignition interlock program. Don't fall for this during an initial appearance, as you will still have time to plead guilty should your DUI lawyer see no other avenues for a positive resolution.

If the Crown's case is weak, and you have an experienced DUI lawyer, prosecutors are much more likely to enter plea bargain negotiations. Such negotiations can lead to an agreement in which the Crown withdraws the DUI criminal charges in return for your pleading guilty to a lesser non-criminal offence, such as careless driving. While Crown prosecutors will not tell you this, when the courts are experiencing high levels of backlog, they tend to be more willing to agree to such plea bargains. Your DUI lawyer will know about such backlogs and can use this knowledge to help secure a plea deal for you.

Learn More DUI Defence Strategies with TorontoDUI

If you are arrested in the Greater Toronto Area for DUI, don't plead guilty until you have consulted with the most experienced DUI criminal defence lawyer you can find. Our skilled DUI lawyers can uncover weaknesses in the Crown's case and strategize legal defences that secure positive outcomes. With more than 15 years of providing criminal DUI defence services in the GTA, the DUI lawyers at TorontoDUI have successfully defended thousands of cases. If you or someone you know has been charged with a DUI, contact TorontoDUI for a free consultation.

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