Driving While Prohibited
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Jeremy Carr, Jeremy Carr & Associates in May 2018.|
There are several ways you can be prohibited from driving: by the province, by the police, or by a driving conviction. It is a driving offence to drive while prohibited.
What you should know
The province can prohibit you from driving
A BC government office monitors driving records and can issue a driving prohibition. The Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, through its Driver Improvement Program, looks at things like the number of penalty points you have accumulated on your driving record within a two-year period (many driving offences automatically result in penalty points). The Superintendent’s office can prohibit you from driving in any of these cases:
- The Superintendent considers it in the public interest — for example, if you have a bad driving record or you were involved in a high-risk driving incident.
- Your driver’s licence was suspended in another province or state.
- You haven’t paid money owing under a court order relating to a vehicle accident you were involved in.
- You haven’t taken a medical exam required by the Superintendent.
The police can prohibit you from driving
Police have the discretion to issue various driving prohibitions.
24-hour roadside prohibition
Under BC’s driving laws, police can issue a 24-hour roadside prohibition if they have reasonable grounds to believe a driver’s ability to drive is affected by alcohol or a drug.
If you are given a 24-hour prohibition, police send a copy of the prohibition notice to ICBC to be placed on your driver's record. Police can also impound your vehicle (have it towed) to prevent you from driving.
If police give you a 24-hour roadside prohibition, believing you’ve been drinking, you can ask the police to test your breath. If your blood-alcohol level is below 50 milligrams of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood (“below .05”), the police have to cancel the prohibition. But if your blood-alcohol level is over .05, you face more than a 24-hour prohibition — see our information on impaired driving.
Immediate roadside prohibition
Under another provision of BC’s driving laws, police can issue an immediate roadside prohibition if you provide a breath sample and an approved screening device shows a warn or fail reading, and police have reasonable grounds to believe your ability to drive is affected by alcohol.
A fail reading (of over .08) results in a 90-day driving prohibition. A warn reading (of over .05) results in a 3-day driving prohibition for a first prohibition, a 7-day driving prohibition for a second prohibition, and a 30-day driving prohibition for any subsequent prohibition.
Administrative driving prohibition
Under another provision, if the police, suspecting you of drinking and driving, test your blood-alcohol level and it’s over .08, they can give you a 90-day administrative driving prohibition. They can also charge you under the Criminal Code with impaired driving. (For more, see our information on impaired driving.)
A criminal conviction can prohibit you from driving
If you are convicted of a driving-related offence under the Criminal Code, you receive an automatic driving prohibition (in addition to other penalties). For example, if you are convicted of impaired driving, dangerous driving, or hit and run, you are automatically prohibited from driving for one year. The judge can order a longer driving prohibition, depending on the facts of the case and your overall driving record.
If you are charged with driving while prohibited
Driving while prohibited from driving is an offence under the Motor Vehicle Act. If you are charged with driving while prohibited, the prosecutor must usually prove that:
- you were driving, and
- you were prohibited from driving, and
- you knew you were prohibited from driving.
The prosecutor must prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecutor will normally use several documents to show these things, in addition to other evidence. You should carefully review these documents, ideally with a lawyer, before deciding how to proceed.
For a description of what to expect from the process, see our information on traffic tickets.
If you’re sentenced for driving while prohibited
If you plead guilty or are found guilty on a charge of driving while prohibited, you will be sentenced.
If it is your first conviction for driving while prohibited, a judge must fine you at least $500 and up to $2,000. The judge can also send you to jail for up to six months, but usually won’t for a first offence.
As well, you will be prohibited from driving for at least 12 months. The judge can consider your driving record and impose a longer driving prohibition.
In addition, a driving while prohibited conviction automatically results in 10 penalty points against your driver’s licence. (For how penalty points affect the premiums you pay for car insurance, see our information on the points system and ICBC.)
For a second or further offence, a judge must send you to jail for at least 14 days and up to one year — in addition to ordering a fine of between $500 and $2,000, and a driving prohibition of at least a year.
Can I challenge a driving prohibition issued by the police?
Yes. Police send a copy of any driving prohibition notice they issue to ICBC to be placed on your driver's record. You can ask Road Safety BC for a review of a driving prohibition. You must ask within seven days of when you get the notice of prohibition.
To ask for the review, you fill in an application form available at any ICBC driver licensing office. 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 prohibition notice. The grounds to dispute the prohibition vary depending on the type of prohibition. The reality is most prohibitions are upheld. During the review process, you are still prohibited from driving.
Who can help
With more information
The BC government website includes information on driving prohibitions and suspensions.
With its Driver Improvement Program, the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles identifies high-risk drivers and encourages them to improve their driving habits.
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