Area of Law: Highway Traffic Law
Answer # 527
Driver's licence suspensionRegion: Ontario Answer # 527
It is an offence under both the federal Criminal Code and the provincial Highway Traffic Act to drive while your driver’s licence is suspended.
When can your licence be suspended?
The Ministry of Transportation may suspend your licence for several reasons, including: if you have not paid a fine for a driving offence, if you have accumulated too many demerit points, or if you have been convicted of a criminal driving offence, such as “driving while impaired”.
The police can stop any driver if they suspect there is alcohol or drug impairment. If you refuse to provide a breath sample or to perform the physical co-ordination tests, if asked, you will be charged under the Criminal Code. If you fail a breath test you will receive either an immediate 3-day license suspension for a first occurrence, or a 90-day suspension, depending on your blood alcohol level.
Penalties for driving while licence suspended
Penalties under the Highway Traffic Act
Highway Traffic Act offences: If you are convicted under the Highway Traffic Act for driving while suspended, there are several penalties you may be given. For example, the first time you drive while your licence is suspended the judge can give you a fine of not less than $1,000 up-to a maximum of $5,000, and six months in prison, or both.
If you are convicted two or more times, the judge will fine you a minimum of $2,000 up-to a maximum of $5,000 and can send you to prison for up-to six months, or both. Also, your licence will be suspended for a further six months.
Criminal Code offences: If the suspension arose because you were convicted of a Criminal Code offence, the penalties under the Highway Traffic Act are much more severe: fines range from $5,000 to $25,000 for a first offence, and from $10,000 to $50,000 for subsequent offences.
Penalties under the Criminal Code
If you are convicted of driving while your licence is suspended, (called operation while prohibited section 320.18 (1) of the Criminal Code), you may face the following penalties:
- a jail term of not more than two years less a day if the offence is punishable on summary conviction (less serious), or
- imprisonment for a term of up-to 10 years, if the Crown prosecutor decides to proceed by indictment (more serious).
Exception: Ignition interlock device program
Anyone who is registered in an alcohol ignition interlock device program (established under the law of the province in which they reside) and who is complying with the conditions of the program, is allowed to drive while their licence is suspended.
If you drive while your licence is suspended and you get into an accident:
- your automobile insurance policy will probably not cover damage to your vehicle,
- you may not be eligible to receive certain other benefits, such as income replacement benefits, and
- you may be personally liable for damages and injuries suffered by the other party involved in the accident.
For more information on the penalties for criminal driving offences, refer to our criminal driving offences section. For more information about driving while your licence is suspended under the provincial Highway Traffic Act, contact the Ministry of Transportation.
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