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Driving While Disqualified

Driving without a license is a serious offense, but it also carries a criminal charge in some cases. Drivers who operate motor vehicles in Canada despite being prohibited from doing so face driving while disqualified charges, a serious criminal offense.  

Driving While Disqualified

You are guilty of driving while disqualified if a judge issued a court order that you cannot operate a motorized vehicle, but you did so anyway. Driving while disqualified is a criminal offense that results in a criminal record, fines, further suspensions, and jail time.

 Driving While Disqualified

If you face charges of driving while disqualified, the prosecutor must prove three things to secure a conviction. 

  • You were operating the motor vehicle on a street, road, highway, or other public areas in Canada. 
  • You were disqualified from driving at the time in question. 
  • You knew you were disqualified from driving and understood the restrictions but chose to drive anyway.  

What Qualifies as a Motor Vehicle?

The term motor vehicle applies to more than cars, though it doesn’t include railway equipment. Under the Criminal Code, a motor vehicle consists of any equipment drawn, propelled, or driven by means other than muscle power. The definition includes airplanes, farming equipment, and construction machinery. 

What Causes Somebody to be Disqualified from Driving?

Judges disqualify people from driving for many reasons, impaired driving, and dangerous driving convictions. Though you’re technically driving without a license, disqualified driving involves a little more because you chose to disobey a judge’s order.

There are two main reasons somebody is charged with driving while disqualified. If somebody is found guilty of a Criminal Code driving offense. Criminal Code driving offenses tend to be dangerous driving acts, like driving at excessive speeds, refusal to provide a breath sample, and failing to remain at the scene of an accident.

The other possible reason for a driving while disqualified charge is somebody driving despite a license suspension from a Provincial Court. Driving on a suspended license may result in a driving while disqualified charge, primarily if you have an HTA suspension.

What is HTA suspension? HTA stands for the Highway Traffic Act, and there are two types of HTA suspensions, depending on the situation. Discretionary HTA violations may result in license suspension, while mandatory HTA violations definitely lead to suspension. In most cases, the police officer issuing the citation makes the decision. 

Criminal Code of Canada Section 259.9

Penalties for Driving While Disqualified

Driving while disqualified carries harsh penalties because it means the driver knowingly violated a judge’s order, a serious offense in Canada. Individuals convicted of driving while disqualified face additional losses.

  • Police officers may impound the vehicle and hold it for 45 days, after which the driver is responsible for the associated costs.
  • Jail time ranging from six months up to five years.
  • An additional license suspension of one year.
  • A fine of between $5,000 and $25,000.
  • Subsequent driving while disqualified offenses carry steeper fines, longer license suspensions, and additional jail time.  

What Happens When Your Disqualification Ends?

It is important to take proper steps to reinstate your license because you cannot start driving immediately after your disqualification ends. Each province handles license reinstatement differently, but it usually involves payment of fines and attendance of court or government-mandated programs.

Driving While Disqualified vs. Driving While Suspended

Though driving while disqualified and driving while suspended sound like similar offenses, there are a few important distinctions. Understanding the difference between the two charges is critical because the penalties attached are significantly different.

Driving while disqualified is a criminal charge under the Criminal Code. If convicted of driving while disqualified, the individual will have a criminal record for the rest of their life. It is preferable to have the charge reduced to driving while suspended. 

On the other hand, driving while suspended falls under provincial law and does not result in a criminal trial or criminal record. This distinction is important because Provinces can suspend licenses for non-criminal activities, like unpaid child support.  

The other differences between driving while disqualified and driving while suspended are the penalties attached. Driving while disqualified charges are generally steeper. Driving while suspended carries lesser fines and no more than six months in jail compared to the penalties detailed above for driving while disqualified. 

Handling a Driving While Disqualified Charge

Facing a driving while disqualified charge can be daunting. It’s important to understand your rights, what you’re facing, and what you can do to improve your situation. Contacting a legal representative is your best option because experienced criminal lawyers know how to build a proper defense and hopefully reduce your charges.