Area of Law: Criminal Law
Answer Number: 778
Driving while your licence is suspendedRegion: Ontario Answer Number: 778
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. Your licence could be suspended by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, by the police, or as a result of a criminal conviction.
When can your licence be suspended?
- Suspension by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation can occur for several reasons, including if a driver:
- has not paid a fine for a driving offence,
- has accumulated too many demerit points, or
- has been convicted of a criminal driving offence, such as driving while impaired.
- Refuse drug or alcohol test: Drivers are subject to an immediate 90-day roadside licence suspension for refusing a drug or alcohol test.
- Young and novice drivers: Fully licensed drivers who are 21 and under or a novice driver caught with any alcohol or drugs in his or her blood, will receive an immediate 24-hour roadside driver licence suspension and, if convicted, will face a fine of between $60-$500 and a minimum 30-day licence suspension.
- Breath test results in ‘warn range’: The police can immediately suspend your licence for three days for registering a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of between 0.05 and 0.08 (50 – 80 milligrams of alcohol in every 100 millilitres of blood) for a first occurrence. This is known as the “warn range”. Your licence can be suspended for seven days for a second occurrence and 30 days for a third or subsequent occurrence.
- Criminal driving convictions: Your licence may also be suspended as a result of a conviction for certain driving offences, such as impaired driving or dangerous driving. In these situations, your driver’s licence is automatically suspended for at least one year. Your licence will be suspended for three years if you are convicted of a second Criminal Code offence. If you are convicted of a third offence, you will get a lifetime suspension from driving with the possibility of a reinstatement after 10 years only if certain requirements are fulfilled. You will be suspended from driving for life with no chance of reinstatement if you are convicted for a fourth time.
Penalties for driving while your licence is suspended
Penalties under the Highway Traffic Act
Provincial offences: If you are convicted under the Highway Traffic Act for driving while your licence is suspended, there are several penalties you may be given:
For a first offence, the judge can order:
- a fine of at least $1,000 up-to a maximum of $5,000, and
- up-to 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, and
- your licence will be suspended for a further six months.
Criminal offences: If the suspension was ordered 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 information on other provincial driving offences, refer to our Highway Traffic Law section.
The penalties for driving while your licence is suspended are serious. If you have been charged with any criminal offence, and need to hire a criminal defence lawyer, contact our preferred experts:
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