Canada: Going to court for impaired driving
September 2, 2009 8:30 AM   Subscribe

I screwed-up, and got caught for driving impaired

I know you're not my lawyer, just looking for advice.

This pertains to BC, Canada...but I thought I'd leave it open.

Like I said I screwed-up, shouldn't have been driving. Took a turn into a narrow gravel driveway too fast (it's on a hwy), and slide into the ditch.

All I needed was a tow truck, but someone called 911, so ambulance, firetruck, 2 cop cars. Got arrested for the first time in my life, charged with impaired driving, but was released once the paperwork was done.

I have a "Promise to appear" form with two dates:

One in Sept. "for purposes of the identification of criminal act". No idea what that means, so that's question #1.

Second in Dec. "to attend thereafter as required, to be dealt with according to law". Not really sure about this either, so that's question #2.

Question #3: I've never dealt with a lawyer. I can't afford one anyway. I don't know if I should try to represent myself of not.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (20 answers total)
IANAL, but I work for one.

Does Canada have any kind of low or no-cost representation provided for those who cannot pay for it themselves?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:37 AM on September 2, 2009

I don't know if I should try to represent myself of not.

If you have no idea what these dates even mean, then you should accept that you're not equipped to represent yourself.
posted by hermitosis at 8:39 AM on September 2, 2009 [9 favorites]

The answer to Question 3 is always "No, you should not."
posted by electroboy at 8:40 AM on September 2, 2009

You need to get in touch with the Legal Services Society which is the the legal aid provider (ie. people who can't afford a lawyer) in B.C.
posted by pixlboi at 8:44 AM on September 2, 2009

you have to have a lawyer. Here in the states our phone book has pages of lawyers who specialize in DUI. Start googling. example
posted by naplesyellow at 8:57 AM on September 2, 2009

Go to your local provincial courthouse and ask the registry when duty counsel attend. Duty counsel are criminal (and family) lawyers who are obligated to give free advice on a limited retainer. They can at least answer your initial questions. I don't know what city you're in, but they'll have a set schedule of when they are available at the courthouse, and the registry staff will know that.
posted by Pomo at 9:01 AM on September 2, 2009

When you were arrested, they said to you that (no idea of the specific language in BC) you have the right to a lawyer, and if you don't have the funds you will be provided with one at no cost.

Avail yourself of this right. Call the Legal Services Society and get representation. Nobody here can help you beyond that.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:05 AM on September 2, 2009

I don't know if I should try to represent myself of not.

"The man who represents himself has a fool for a client."
posted by alby at 9:18 AM on September 2, 2009

You need to take this about as seriously as you've ever taken anything in your life. So yes, start with a lawyer.
posted by philip-random at 9:25 AM on September 2, 2009


"The man who represents himself has a fool for a client."

So they say, and yet the courts are awash with the self-represented. Small claims court is one thing, but this is a serious criminal matter, and you absolutely do need a lawyer; however, while you are arranging your representation, review the resources listed on the "Your experience at court" page provided by the Provincial Court of British Columbia. According to my limited understand of the B.C. courts, this is the court before which you will appear). Specifically, read Basic Criminal Procedure to better understand the process.
posted by onshi at 9:34 AM on September 2, 2009

... limited understanding...
posted by onshi at 9:39 AM on September 2, 2009

The answer to Question 3 is always "No, you should not."

Yep. Outliers aside, never represent yourself. You'll shoot yourself in your metaphorical foot.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:42 AM on September 2, 2009

Get a lawyer. There is much more going on in the courtroom than you think.

Also, go to court sometime before your case and sit in the gallery. Watch what happens to people who do and do not have lawyers. I think the biggest thing you are facing right now is probably the fear of not knowing what is about to happen. A lawyer will help you get over that so you can take of this.
posted by bensherman at 10:07 AM on September 2, 2009

You need a lawyer, and not just to navigate the court calendar. You've admitted you screwed up, which is a good place to start, but it likely won't get you much of anywhere in court. An attorney can help you get a lighter sentence or take oter mitigating steps that you'd never know about yourself.

I don't know about Canada, but in the US many DUI attorneys will take payments. First make sure you inquire about the free representation options available and explore them.

This is a situation with serious consequences, possibly reverberating for decades. Do not try to navigate it without representation. Good luck, and make sure you take a long, hard look at things in your life in general so that you can learn how to keep yourself out of this situation I the future.
posted by azpenguin at 10:16 AM on September 2, 2009

Further with contacting LSS: it says on their website you may qualify for legal aid (meaning someone who will represent you in court) if you are really that hard up.

Not to wisecrack uselessly, but in all honesty, anon: Suck it up and focus on the task at hand. You need to make sense of what is happening to you, and you need to get some quality legal advice (if not representation). There are a lot* of good self-help legal resources out there, but they ain't gonna research themselves.

* The Red Book is an excellent community resource directory -- scroll down here to "Legal Aid"
* ClickLawBC provides a range of you-are-not-a-lawyer type information that should be easy to navigate
* Here are some audio clips from the Cnd Bar Assoc dealing with impaired driving
* Do some research to find out what has happened to other people who had a similar circumstance: Search CANLii, using key words like "Driving" and "Alcohol" in the full-text search box.
* Many more possibilities for research at the BC Courthouse Libraries webpage

but yeah: IANAL, and YANAL.
posted by tamarack at 10:19 AM on September 2, 2009


I do know that in most cases (USA) that having a lawyer can be the difference between higher fines, jail time, etc. Also you do not know your rights either or what they mean. I would look at talking to one of the free lawyer services mentioned above.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 10:20 AM on September 2, 2009

Subby here. I've taken the good advice and links. Dialed some numbers to find a lawyer who specializes in DUI's. It seems to be the best course of action, but according to the most knowledgeable person I talked to, it's unlikely to succeed. It was a 24hr suspension, 3 weeks drivable, then 3 months suspended. Even the cop said it was stupid. It's the 3 months suspension I'm trying to avoid.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:56 AM on September 2, 2009

To clarify, the cop said suspending for 24hrs, driving for 3 weeks, then suspending it again for 3 months...but that's the policy
posted by hungrysquirrels at 11:06 AM on September 2, 2009

Get a lawyer. Also, IANAL, but I don't think it's a good idea to respond to the neighbours' plea that you follow up to see how they are, if you happen to be the individual in that story.
posted by acoutu at 8:11 PM on September 2, 2009

I'm no lawyer and not in B.C. I am in Alberta

The first court appearance is probably for entering your plea.

The second is probably your trial date for when you entered your 'not guilty' plea on the previous date.

Get a lawyer that specializes in DUI. Ask about the ignition interlock.
posted by chugg at 2:23 PM on September 3, 2009

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