MY CHARGE: I’ll save the long-winded story (everyone has a story). All I’ll say is that by no means did I intend to stunt drive and felt as though I was moving at a similar rate of speed as the cars around me. I was travelling south on the 400 from Barrie and was on my way to Brampton. What I didn’t realize was there’s a stretch of the 400 (essentially between Hwy 9 and Wonderland) that reduces from a 100km/h to a 80km/h zone. I got pulled over for doing 139km/h (the police officers were “pacing” my SUV). 7 day impound, 7 day license suspension, and a stunt driving charge for 59km/h over the posted limit.
PARALEGAL: I debated long and hard about hiring a paralegal. I ended up going to meet with one and through my discussion with her I realized I could handle the first appearance in court on my own. She essentially said she’d go there to collect the disclosure (evidence/ officers notes) and then meet with me to talk about options. I thought, “I can do that, why would I pay $1,000 to have someone go collect documents for me.” I ended up not signing her agreement to represent me, to which she turned me off even more by using scare tactics to try to get me to sign with her (saying I was facing jail time and needed to have a professional handle the matter, etc).
COURT: I was summoned to court in Newmarket. Before you go in to the courtroom, you stand in a line outside the courtroom with everyone else that is on the docket that day/time and a court clerk hands you your disclosure (evidence) documents. On the front page they also have already written the plea deal they are offering - no further negotiation. This is when I was so glad I didn’t hire a paralegal for the first appearance. The plea deal is already predetermined by the Crown before you even show up. It doesn’t seem like the Paralegal would have any further influence on it at this point.
My plea deal they were offering was 49km over the limit. I jumped at this offer and took it. If you get offered a 49km (or less) over the limit, I say TAKE IT and pay the $400 fine and be thankful your insurance won’t skyrocket. The alternative is much worse.
There were a few other people there facing stunt driving charges as well and based on comparing my rate of speed with theirs, it seems as though if you were doing 60 (maybe 65) km/h over the limit, then they will knock you down to “regular speeding” (49 over). But if you’re more than 65 over the limit, then I think your plea deal will be more around the fine amount and less around dropping to the “regular speeding ticket” bracket.
- One guy was charged with doing 74 km/h over the limit (174 in 100). His plea deal was they would knock off the “stunt” part of the ticket (essentially he’d be charged under section 128 of the highway traffic act instead of section 172). It meant he paid a lesser fine amount than stunt driving (like $700 instead of $2k to $10k). But since he still plead guilty to doing more than 50km/h over the limit, he’ll likely still see a huge increase in insurance rates.
- Another guy was doing close to 200 km/h in a 100 zone and the Crown’s offer was to plead guilty as charged to stunt driving with a $2,000 fine. He asked the judge for time to seek legal advice. My guess is if he ends up fighting the charge and gets convicted then the fine will prob go up to $5k or $10k and maybe a license suspension too.
I didn’t hear jail time discussed with either of them, which makes you think it’s really only there to scare you (and would probably only be in play if you inflicted some sort of serious harm or damage to people or property as a result of stunt driving).
To end off, I’m of the opinion that you should go to the first appearance yourself. Don’t pay someone $1,000 to do it for you. When you get your disclosure (evidence) at the first appearance, you can see if you like the plea deal - and if you do, take it and you just saved spending $1,000 on a paralegal. And if you don’t like the deal then you can request time to seek legal advice (usually 4 to 6 weeks) and the judge will allow it. You don’t have to enter a guilty or not guilty plea at this time.
If you get your disclosure and don’t like the plea deal the Crown is offering, then that’s when I would say is the time to consider hiring a paralegal.
My opinion is don’t hire them for the first appearance, it could end up making you spend more money than you need to on an already expensive situation.
All of the above is strictly just my own opinion and accounts of what I experienced through my own eyes. Every situation is unique. Some people feel hiring a paralegal right off the bat helps them sleep better at night. To each their own I say.
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