Most people charged with a drinking and driving offence in Ontario believe that it is very unlikely that they can win their case.  This is often not true.  Here are seven reasons you should retain a good Ottawa criminal lawyer before deciding whether to plead guilty:

1. The prosecution will not tell you if they have serious problems with your case.  You are pleading guilty blind if you do not have a knowledgeable criminal lawyer review the strength of the case against you.  The Crown often has serious problems with its case, which will not be obvious to an accused person, for example:

 • Your Charter rights were violated and the evidence against you may be excluded at your trial.

• Your breath testing was not done properly by the police.

• The police did not serve you with the required documents or made mistakes in filling out the documents.

• The breath testing machine was improperly calibrated or maintained.

• The police cannot locate key witnesses or evidence has been lost.

• Evidence of the actual amount of alcohol you drank may rebut the Intoxilyzer machine’s breath readings of your blood alcohol content.

 2. It is frequently less expensive to fight an impaired driving or Over 80 charge than to plead guilty, due to the high insurance premiums and fines which accompany a conviction.  Your car insurance rates, for example, will increase by 100% for at least two years if you are convicted.

3. Hiring an impaired driving lawyer to analyze your case allows you to make an informed choice about whether you want a trial or not.

4. Duty counsel at the courthouse does not have the time, or in some cases the expertise, to properly analyze your case.

5. People usually have little to lose by going to trial. The penalties that might be imposed after a trial are typically not much higher than the penalties that will definitely be imposed if you plead guilty right away.  Whether you plead guilty or are convicted after a trial, the minimum penalties of a permanent criminal record, $1,000 fine, and a 1-year driving prohibition will apply.

6. You do not have to plead guilty right away to get into the ignition interlock early license reinstatement program.  You have to plead guilty and be sentenced within 90 days of the offence to be eligible for Stream “A” of the interlock program.  This gives you plenty of time to retain a lawyer to thoroughly review the case against you.

 7. Your lawyer may be able to negotiate reduced penalties even if you decide to plead guilty.