About a year ago, two British Columbia lawyers got the idea that a web site directed at clients’ issues rather than a lawyer’s practice was not a bad idea. As a result, they launched BC Driving Lawyers, aimed at clients charged with driving offences ranging from drunk driving to traffic tickets.
Clients can call a phone number and be directed to a lawyer in their area who has experience in handling those cases. “It’s not a perfect system,” says Vancouver criminal lawyer Paul Doroshenko, who started the site with friend and Richmond lawyer Kevin Filkow. The two started the site but also continue their full-service criminal law practices.
Individuals calling don’t necessarily know which lawyer they will be referred to, Doroshenko points out. But, then, most individuals charged with an offence don’t really know where to turn to look for a lawyer with experience in their case.
“We are not allowed to call ourselves specialists,” says Doroshenko. But, the reality is that many criminal lawyers handling driving offences become extremely adept in that field. “I don’t think there is anyone better at handling tickets than us,” says Doroshenko. (He has studied radar gun technology and is also the only lawyer in B.C. who owns and knows how to operate a Breathalyzer, and, Approved Screening Devices regularly used in B.C.). RCMP or police are often surprised when confronted by a knowledgeable lawyer able to discuss the mechanics of tracking a motorist, he said.
Tickets and prohibitions against driving were once thought of as small potatoes, not really worth a lawyer’s time or fee. But, with stiffer penalties being handed out in B.C., they can easily lead to a driver losing his or her licence or having it suspended. Doroshenko says fines have now increased, plus there is the hiked insurance rate that follows a ticket plus a penalty rates paid by motorists for accruing driving demerits.
“The punishment so outweighs the offence,” says Doroshenko, as the downstream penalties are calculated into the initial fine.
So far BC Driving Lawyers has fielded calls from across the province, ranging from an Ontario-based trucking firm whose driver was stopped in northeastern B.C. for impaired driving to clients inquiring about unlawful search and seizures roadside.
The still-growing web site has had fair to moderate success as it is getting better known. “Some days we can field 20 calls,” he says, “Other days nothing.” Television advertising lead to a flurry of calls but is extremely expensive.
The site can also generate new business for criminal lawyers once heavily reliant on impaired driving cases, which now have fallen off since B.C. introduced the toughest laws in Canada. Police now have the right at roadside under the Motor Vehicle Act to immediately suspend driver’s rights for 90 days, impose a fine of $500, and impound the vehicle for 30 days if a driver fails a breathalyzer test. Other stricter penalties also apply.
Doroshenko says the web site plays a further role: It is a way of linking together lawyers with expertise throughout the province to discuss case results. Still, he would like to see more lawyers involved. “We are looking for more lawyers outside Vancouver who would like to be part of this.”