Driving While Prohibited (Script 192)
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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.
Types of driving prohibitions
1. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
4. 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. But the grounds for disputing the prohibition are very limited and most prohibitions are upheld. And usually, the prohibition will be over before the review is held.
5. 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).
- The Superintendent can prohibit you from driving for repeat unlicensed-driving offences. The prohibition lasts until you become licensed.
- 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. You have to wait 5 years to re-apply for a license and that time can be extended if you don’t comply with other requirements or conditions of getting a license.
- 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 for driving while prohibited
a. Fine, jail, or both
- For a first offence, a judge must fine you at least $500 and up to $2000. But the judge does not have to send you to jail, and usually doesn’t.
- For a second or further offense, a judge will 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.
b. 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.
c. 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.
- Check the ICBC website section on driver licensing.
- Check script 190, called “Drinking and Driving” and script 211, called “Defending Yourself Against a Criminal Charge”.
- Check the Motor Vehicle Act and the Criminal Code.
- Ministry of Justice information on prohibitions and suspensions
- Check RoadSafetyBC (previously called the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles).
[updated May 2016]
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