Driving While Prohibited
The Dial-A-Law library is prepared by lawyers and gives practical information on many areas of law in British Columbia. Script 192 gives general information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer. For the name of a lawyer to consult, call the Lawyer Referral Service at 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in British Columbia.
This script explains driving prohibitions in BC. Then it explains what can happen if you are charged with driving a motor vehicle while prohibited from driving under the BC Motor Vehicle Act and the penalties if you are convicted. The script uses the words prohibitions and suspensions. Usually, the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles suspends a driving privilege while a court prohibits someone from driving. But in reality, the two things are basically the same.
Types of driving prohibitions or suspensions
- BC Superintendent of Motor Vehicles prohibition for poor driving record
The BC Superintendent of Motor Vehicles can prohibit you from driving in any of the following cases (the government calls this Driver Improvement Program prohibitions):
- the Superintendent considers it in the public interest—for example, if you have a bad driving record.
- your driver’s license was suspended in anther province or state.
- you don’t pay money, called damages, that a court orders for a vehicle accident in which you were the driver or vehicle owner.
- you don’t take a medical exam that the Superintendent orders.
- 24-hour roadside prohibition
If you have care or control of a vehicle and the police have reasonable grounds to believe that your ability to drive is affected by alcohol or drugs, they may:
- require you to remove your vehicle from the road.
- require you to give them your driver’s license.
- give you notice of a 24-hour prohibition. The notice is a document.
- impound your vehicle (have it towed) to prevent you from driving during the 24-hour prohibition.
If the police give you this prohibition without testing your breath, you can ask them to test your breath with an approved roadside-screening device (ASD). If your blood-alcohol level is not over 50 milligrams per 100 milliliters of blood, the police have to cancel the prohibition. But if your blood-alcohol level is over 50 milligrams, you face much more than a 24-hour prohibition—check script 190, called “Drinking and Driving”.
If the prohibition is because of alcohol, you can ask the Superintendent to review the prohibition. You have to do that in writing, within 7 days of getting the notice. The Superintendent can cancel the prohibition only in 2 cases: if you were not the driver or you did not have care or control of the vehicle or if the police failed to test your blood alcohol when you asked.
- 12-hour roadside suspension
A 12-hour suspension applies only to new drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program. As a driver in this program (as a Learner or Novice), if you have care or control of a motor vehicle and an ASD test shows you have any alcohol in your body, you receive an immediate 12-hour driving suspension. You also have to go back to the start of your 12-month (L) or 24-month (N) stage. And the Superintendent will automatically review your driving record and can give you more driving prohibitions if your record is unsatisfactory.
If your blood-alcohol level is over 0.05, you face the same consequences as other drivers, plus go back to the start of your 12-month (L) or 24-month (N) stage. There is no review of a 12-hour roadside suspension.
- Immediate roadside prohibition (IRP)
If you have care or control of a motor vehicle and the police reasonably suspect that you have alcohol or drugs in your body, they may demand that you blow into a hand-held breath-testing device at the side of the road. (Script 190 has more on this.)
If the device shows a “warn”, the police will:
- take your driver’s license and give you a notice that you are prohibited from driving.
- impound your vehicle for 3 clear days (not including weekends).
- immediately prohibit you from driving for 3 clear days (longer for later incidents).
For a second offense within 5 years, the driving prohibition and vehicle impoundment increase to 7 days. For a third offense within 5 years, the driving prohibition and vehicle impoundment increase to 30 days.
In all 3 cases, you also have to pay penalties and fees to get your license back, or reinstated. And in the third case, you have to enroll in a responsible driver program and install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. Both these things cost a lot more.
If the device shows a “fail” or if you refuse to provide a breath sample, the police will:
- take your driver’s license.
- prohibit you from driving for 90 days.
- impound your vehicle for 30 days.
And you also have to pay a penalty and a license reinstatement fee, enroll in a responsible driver program and install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. Both these things cost a lot more. The police may also arrest you and take you to the police station for further breath testing.
You can ask for a review of the prohibitions within 7 days of when you get the notice of prohibition. The grounds to dispute the prohibition are limited and most prohibitions are upheld. You must fill in an application form available at ICBC Driver Licensing Offices. You must also pay a fee that depends on whether you make your case in writing or orally. A decision will usually be made within 21 days of when you got the notice. During the review process, you are still prohibited from driving.
Administrative Driving Prohibition (ADP)
If your blood alcohol content is over 0.08, or if you refuse to give a breath sample, police may give you a 90-day driving prohibition and charge you under the Criminal Code with impaired driving—if they don’t give you an IRP (see item 4 above and script 190).
Unlicensed driver prohibition
The Superintendent can prohibit you from driving for repeat unlicensed-driving offences. The prohibition lasts until you become licensed.
- Driving prohibition for Criminal Code conviction (court ordered)
You lose the right to drive if you are convicted of a Criminal Code offense related to motor vehicles. For example, if you are convicted of impaired driving, dangerous driving, or hit and run, your license is suspended for 1 year. This is the penalty for a first offense—unless a judge orders a longer prohibition. For a second conviction within 10 years, your license is suspended for 3 years. For 3 or more convictions, your license is suspended indefinitely. With an indefinite suspension, you can re-apply for a license after 5 years, but the suspension can be extended if you don’t comply with other requirements or conditions of getting a license. Script 190 has more on this topic.
If you are convicted of a Criminal Code offense relating to motor vehicles, you have to complete the Responsible Driver Program. It may also be required if you apply for a driver’s license and you have received:
- two 90-day administrative driving prohibitions within 5 years,
- three 24-hour driving prohibitions within 5 years, or
- a combined total of three 24-hour prohibitions or 90-day prohibitions within 5 years.
If you are convicted of 3 of more alcohol-related Criminal Code offences, you can re-apply for a driver’s license after 5 years if you successfully complete the rehabilitation program.
If you are charged with driving while prohibited
To convict you of this offense, the prosecutor must usually prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you:
- were driving, and
- were prohibited from driving, and
- knew you were prohibited from driving.
The prosecutor will normally use several documents to show these things. You should carefully review these documents with a lawyer before deciding how to proceed. For more on defending yourself, check script 211, called “Defending Yourself Against a Criminal Charge”.
Penalties if you are convicted of driving while prohibited
- Fine, jail, or both
For a first offence, a judge must fine you at least $500 and up to $2000. The judge can also send you to jail for up to 6 months, but does not have to and usually doesn’t.
For a second or further offense, a judge must fine you at least $500 but not more than $2000 and must send you to jail for at least 14 days up to one year.
You also lose 10 points.
- Driving prohibition of 12 months or longer
In addition to a fine and jail term, if you’re convicted of driving while prohibited, even if it’s your first offence, you will be prohibited from driving for at least 12 months. The judge can consider your driving record and impose a longer prohibition, in addition to the automatic 12-month prohibition.
- Vehicle impoundment
There are other penalties too. If the police catch you driving while prohibited, they will impound, or take away, your vehicle. It will also be impounded if you are suspended from driving for Criminal Code convictions related to motor vehicles or if you are prohibited from driving because you are medically unfit.
The impoundment lasts 7 days for a first incident and 30 days for a second incident and 60 days for a third incident. You have to pay all costs of the impoundment before you get your vehicle back. You can ask the Superintendent to review the impoundment within 30 days of the date of the notice of impoundment. The impoundment notice explains how to apply for a review.
Driving while prohibited is a complex offence with severe penalties. If you are charged, you should at least talk to a lawyer and get some advice. Then you can decide whether you want to hire a lawyer to represent you in court.
[updated May 2018]
The above was edited by John Blois.
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