First of all, laws can be different all over Canada, so be aware the information on this page applies to the Province of Manitoba. Laws can also change over time, so this information was accurate as of June 2018.
I wanted to use an example to give you a fairly typical DUI case and then follow what all the costs would be along the way.
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Facts of the case
Jason was at his friend's house having a few beers and watching the Jets game. He wasn't keeping track of how many drinks he had and decided to drive himself home. Along the way, he lost control of his vehicle and hit a snowbank on the side of the road. Another driver stopped to talk to Jason and then called the police because Jason smelled like beer. The police arrive, observe Jason being unsteady on his feet, have alcohol on his breath, and slurring his words a bit. Jason is placed under arrest for impaired operation of a motor vehicle and taken back to the police station for breath samples. He provides two samples and his blood alcohol registers at 120 mg% on both samples. Jason is 26 years old, he has never been charged with a crime before, and he has a clean driving record.
The same day that Jason was charged, the police gave him some paperwork. First, he will not be allowed to drive for the next 90 days. He cannot apply for exceptions or a work permit during this time. In order to get his licence back, Jason has to go to the Addiction Foundation of Manitoba (AFM) and complete an Impaired Driver Assessment which costs $625. Once he waits 90 days, completes the AFM assessment, and then pays the $50 reinstatement fee to a Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) broker, then MPI will issue him a valid driver's licence and he can start driving again.
Second, Jason's vehicle was impounded for 30 days, but it could have been impounded for 60 days if he refused to provide a sample or blew over double the legal limit (over 160 mg%). Jason has to pay the towing company for both towing and storing the vehicle while it is impounded, which is usually about $600. If Jason was driving someone else's vehicle, the registered owner can apply to get the vehicle back sooner than the 30 days so the impound fee could be lower.
Jason can represent himself in court for a DUI charge, but a lot of people would prefer to get some help to make sure they are making smart decisions about their case. Keep in mind that police officers, correctional officers, lawyers, and judges hire defence lawyers when they are charged with a criminal offence.
Most of the time, Legal Aid Manitoba will not pay for you to have a lawyer for a drive impaired related case. What that means is that you are usually on your own to pay for your criminal defence lawyer. However, if you are facing a jail sentence or if you are a professional driver, then you may qualify for Legal Aid if you also meet their financial eligibility.
Legal fees depend on how serious the charge is, how complex is the case, how experienced the lawyer is, and whether the case goes to trial or not. Every lawyer is different so the key is to discuss costs/fees at the first meeting. Legal fees could range from $2,000 up to $10,000 or more for a drive impaired related offence.
Costs of a conviction
If Jason proceeds to trial and is successful, or if the Crown Attorney agreed to drop his charges completely (very rare), then he would not have to worry about the following consequences. But anytime you plead guilty or are found guilty of an impaired driving related offence, there are consequences from both the Judge in court and then from MPI.
The Judge must impose a minimum $1,000 fine and a 30% victim of crime surcharge, which means the lowest cost you have to pay to the court is $1,300. An average fine amount is about $1,500 so a grand total of $1,950 with the surcharge. The maximum fine a Judge can impose would be $5,000. Next, the Judge most impose a minimum 1-year Canada wide driving prohibition, which means you cannot drive anything that has a motor on a road, highway, or public place for 1 year. Finally, a fine means you have a criminal conviction and a criminal record. The fine and driving prohibition can obviously be more than the minimum and a Judge can even impose a jail sentence, but a jail sentence is rare for a first offender where no one is injured or killed. In Jason's case, he would likely receive a fine between $1,200 to $1,600 (grand total of $1,560 to $2,080).
MPI will deduct 10 points from the driver safety scale, which means your licencing fee and vehicle registration will cost more. If Jason was at +5 on the driver safety scale, he would drop down to -5. If Jason earns 1 point per year for safe driving after this, he will have to pay an extra $1,505 for his driver's licence over the next 10 years ($230 compared to $1,735). If Jason's regular registration fee was $1400 per year, he will have to pay an extra $3,192 for his registration over the next 10 years ($10,248 compared to $13,440).
MPI will also require you to enrol in the Alcohol Interlock Ignition Program after the Judge ordered driving prohibition ends. You are responsible to pay the costs of this program which include: $250 administration charge, $450 installation charge, $89 monitoring charge per month, and $50 de-installation charge. After taxes, the total cost is $1769.09 for a year. You can review the MPI pamphlet by clicking here.
In Jason's case, he damaged his vehicle a little bit when he hit the snowbank and the auto-body shop said he caused $1,500 in damage. If alcohol impairment was a cause of a motor vehicle accident, then MPI will usually hold the impaired driver responsible for all the costs to any vehicle repairs or write-offs. It means that Jason is responsible to pay out of pocket to fix his car or make a claim through MPI and then pay back MPI. If Jason would have totalled his car or hit another car, then the bill to MPI could end up being thousands and thousands of dollars. MPI can refuse to issue you a driver's licence if you do not pay your debt (or arrange a payment plan with them).
It is cheaper to hire a helicopter
In 2017, my wife and I took a helicopter ride from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon. The round trip for both of us was just over $1,000 - which is a drop in the bucket compared to all of the costs associated with a DUI. If you think taking a helicopter from the Palomino Club to your house in Transcona is too expensive, which it is, then the cost of a cab or limousine quickly becomes a very cheap option to get home. If you just look at the dollars and cents, it is better to take a $50 cab ride home every weekend for 4 years than it is to get one DUI conviction. Plus, you won't lose things that are much harder to put a price on, like your driver's licence or a clean criminal record.
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About the author
Michael Dyck is a partner at Rees & Dyck Criminal Defence. He represents clients primarily from Winnipeg, Steinbach, and rural Manitoba. He has extensive experience helping people charged with criminal offences and focuses on building legal strategy with clients. To read more of his articles, please visit his partner's website TomRees.ca.