How much does it cost to instruct a drink driving solicitor?
...and do I need one!?
Challenging a drink driving case can be expensive, but may be worth your while if your driving licence is important. We regularly win drink driving cases on technical points of law and procedure. Just because you were over the legal alcohol limit, does not mean that you are guilty of a DUI offence.
The first point to consider is whether you actually need a specialist solicitor to represent you in court. After all, what's wrong with a bog-standard one? Unfortunately, like with most things in life, you get what you pay for. A general crime solicitor will certainly cost less, but it's of no benefit to you if you're banned for longer. Only you can appreciate the true cost of your driving licence, and what you will lose if you're convicted.
Ask yourself the following question: If you were diagnosed with a serious illness, would you take advice from your GP or would you speak to a specialist consultant? The advice given to you by your GP might be correct, but what if the consultant knows something your GP doesn't?
Our clients prefer to be represented by specialist driving defence solicitors because we can identify defences which might be overlooked elsewhere. Take the example below;
Ian was charged with drink driving and bailed to attend Chelmsford Magistrates' Court. He visited a local solicitor who reviewed the initial paperwork and advised Ian to plead guilty because he was over the limit. Ian was unsure whether to accept this advice so contacted us. We took one look at the paperwork and told Ian he could win his case.
The issue in Ian's case related to the printout. Upon review, we noticed the words 'Breath difference' on the printout. The solicitor that our client had spoken to earlier had failed to notice this error. We simply called the CPS and asked them to discontinue the case. Our client even avoided the first hearing.
This is one example of why you should always seek a second opinion. A solicitor who does not specialise may overlook small procedural deficiencies which could help us win your case. We have spent years fine-tuning defence strategies to give our clients a service unlike any other. We pride ourselves on our ability to identify loopholes with police procedure and process. Take a look at our drink driving testimonials below.
Drink Driving Solicitor Testimonials
Drink Driving Solicitor Fees
Now that we've established the importance of a specialist drink driving solicitor, you may want to know more about the costs. Instructing a specialist solicitor may not be as expensive as you might think, especially when compared to what you stand to lose. Listed below are just some of the costs associated with a driving ban;
- Loss of income (one study found a 40% reduction in household income)
- Increase in insurance premiums (on average 400% higher)
- Cost of taxis or public transport (over £50 per week)
- A court fine (up to £5000 in the Magistrates' Court)
I often explain to people charged with drink driving that 'costs' are the single most important factor when deciding whether to instruct a solicitor. This is because very little else will change in a drink driving case. Let me explain what I mean.
I have handled many drink and drug driving cases over several years and my personal view is that there is no real benefit in pleading guilty at the first hearing. Consider for yourself what you have to gain or lose. If you plead guilty at the first hearing you will receive a long disqualification. This will remain the same even if you are convicted at a later date. Please remember that 'credit' for an early guilty plea does not apply to the driving ban (meaning it is not reduced at a first hearing).
In my view, anyone facing a long ban (or worse) should never plead guilty before attending court for a trial. By attending court for a trial you force the CPS to prepare its case for court and arrange for witnesses to attend court (including police officers). If the officers fail to attend court, or the CPS does not have the correct documents at court, then you would usually win the case. Even if you went to court for a trial and, after checking to see if the CPS witnesses had attended court, you then pleaded guilty, the ban would remain the same as it was at the first hearing. In effect, you are no worse off. The only difference is the solicitors' costs.
The Magistrates' Court Sentencing Council confirms the above. You can read more about this below.
Top Tip - Avoid hourly rates
A drink driving case could take anywhere from 6 - 12 months to resolve. Imagine paying your solicitor for every hour he spent working on your case during this time. Costs can very quickly start to spiral out of control. At the beginning of your case, no one will know how long it will take to resolve. Even a simple case can take many months. It is important that you have some cost-certainty at the outset.
I remember representing a client who was charged with a serious motoring offence. He instructed us part way through his case after getting tired of the escalating costs. He was paying his solicitor by hour and was already £10,000 in to it!! He wasn't exactly sure what he had paid for. He told me the final straw was when he received a phone call from his solicitor one Friday evening asking for another payment on account so that the solicitor could send a letter! We were able to agree a fixed fee to cover the remainder of the case.
I have listed below some of the reasons to avoid an hourly rate;
- Unknown costs. No one will know how long your case will take to resolve. Even an 'open shut' case can be delayed.
- Work will often 'stall' because your money on account runs out
- No real certainty from the outset regarding costs
Drink Driving Costs - Video
Can I get legal aid for drink driving?
If you earn over £13,000 per year you will not qualify for legal aid (subject to a few exceptions). If you do qualify, don't expect your solicitor to challenge the case on technical points of law and procedure. It is likely you will simply be advised to plead guilty.
You can use the Government's financial calculator to check if you are eligible for legal aid.
M.A.J Law do not have a contract with the Legal Aid Agency. This means that we cannot represent you on Legal Aid. We are a privately funded criminal defence firm. In my view, a drink driving case cannot be challenged in the correct way on legal aid rates of pay.
Drink Driving Lawyer Costs - FAQ's
Can I get my money back if I win my case?
Yes. You are usually entitled to a Defence Costs Order if you win your case. A DCO is granted by the court and allows a defendant to claim back solicitors fees from the Central Funds office of the Government. Unfortunately, you are unlikely to receive the full amount back, but you should receive something. Anything you do get back you should consider a bonus.
MAJ Law employs an in-house costs draftsman who will apply for costs on your behalf. The process usually takes 6 - 8 weeks.
Are expensive lawyers better?
Sometimes, but not always. The easiest way to decide who to instruct is to speak with the solicitor. Most law firms, including ours, offer free legal advice over the phone. Speaking with the solicitor is the best way to 'sound out' who you're dealing with. It will also give you an opportunity to ask any questions and enquire about legal fees. Make sure the person you speak to is qualified to give legal advice. Make sure they're enthusiastic about representing you and, finally, make sure they explain all your options (not just a guilty plea!).
What does a fixed fee actually include?
This depends upon what was agreed. Our initial fixed fee would usually include the following work;
- Our advice to you prior to court (telephone calls and advice letters)
- Our contact with the police (to request important documentary evidence)
- Our contact with the CPS (which would usually involve an invitation to discontinue the proceedings)
- Our time spent reviewing the evidence against you and, of course, looking for technicalities and legal loopholes
- Representation at your court hearing by an experienced solicitor or barrister
- Advice following your court hearing summarising the outcome and next steps
We ensure that all our legal fees are clear from the outset. No one likes hidden costs. If you would like to know more about our legal fees, please get in touch. You can call our offices on 01514228020.
Will my case insurance cover my legal fees?
Some insurance providers will offer Legal Expenses Insurance. This may cover some or all of your legal fees. Providers who offer this type of cover will probably have a preference over the solicitors you instruct (they may already have an agreement in place with another firm). Check you car insurance policy for Legal Expenses Insurance.
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