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Driving While Prohibited/Disqualified

If you have been charged with Driving While Prohibited in Ontario, we can help! Our team of lawyers and paralegals have the experience and knowledge to provide you the strongest possible legal defense. 

Drivers who operate motor vehicles in Canada, despite being prohibited from doing so, face Driving While Prohibited charges, a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada section 320.18(1). Prior to 2018, this charge was under section 259 of the Criminal Code of Canada as Driving While Disqualified. Despite the change in wording, the offence is essentially the same. 

The charge of Driving While Prohibited is a hybrid offence. This means the Crown can decide how to proceed; either Summarily (less serious penalties) or by Indictment (more serious penalties). The Crown’s election depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding the case. It is important to note that whichever way the Crown proceeds, this charge will still result in a criminal conviction if you are found guilty. 

You are guilty of Driving While Prohibited if a Judge issued a court order that you cannot operate a conveyance (motor vehicle, vessel, aircraft, or railway equipment) on a roadway, but you did so anyway. Driving While Prohibited is a criminal offence that will result in a criminal record if you are found guilty. You may also be ordered to pay fines, issued a further license suspension, and could even face jail time. To be found guilty of Driving While Prohibited, the Prosecutor or Crown must prove three things to secure a conviction against you:

  1. You were operating the conveyance on a street, road, highway, or other public area in Canada.
  2. You were prohibited from driving at the time in question.
  3. You knew you were prohibited from driving and understood the restrictions but chose to drive anyway.

What Qualifies As a Conveyance?

The term conveyance applies to more than cars. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, a conveyance consists of any equipment drawn, propelled, or driven by means other than muscle power. The definition includes airplanes, farming equipment, railway equipment, motorcycles, boats, and construction machinery.

What Causes Somebody To Be Prohibited From Driving?

Judges prohibit people from driving for many reasons, including previous Criminal Code convictions for Impaired Driving and Dangerous Driving. Prohibited Driving is a more serious charge than Driving without a License or Driving While Under Suspension, and the penalties are more serious. A driver is prohibited from driving if they are found guilty of a Criminal Code driving offence and issued a driving prohibition order by a Judge. Criminal Code driving offences include Flight from Peace Officer, Accident Resulting in Death or Bodily Harm, Dangerous Driving, Impaired Driving, Refusal to Provide Breath Sample, and Fail to Stop After Accident. 

What Are The Penalties If You Are Charged And Convicted Of Driving While Prohibited In Ontario?

Driving While Prohibited carries harsh penalties because it means the driver knowingly violated a Judge’s order, a serious offence in Canada. Because the prohibition was the result of a previous Criminal Code of Canada conviction and the driver did not obey the prohibition order, the Crown often seeks imprisonment, even for a first offence. Individuals convicted of Driving While Prohibited face additional losses and penalties as follows:

  • A police officer may order that the vehicle is impounded and held for 45 days. The driver is responsible for the associated towing and storage costs
  • Jail time ranging from 30 days up to a maximum of two years less a day for a summary conviction
  • A jail term of up to 10 years for an indictable conviction
  • An additional mandatory driving prohibition (which starts at the end of the incarceration period)
  • A fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 for a first offence; a fine of up to $10,000 for subsequent offences

What Happens When Your Prohibition Ends?

It is important to take proper steps to reinstate your license because you cannot start driving immediately after your prohibition ends. Each province handles license reinstatement differently, but it usually involves payment of fines and attendance at court or government-mandated programs. You must also pay a fee to the Ministry of Transportation to have your license reinstated in Ontario.

Driving While Prohibited vs. Driving While Suspended

Though Driving While Prohibited and Driving While Under Suspension sound like similar offences, there are a few important distinctions. Understanding the difference between the two charges is critical because the penalties attached are significantly different. Driving While Prohibited is a criminal charge under the Criminal Code of Canada. If convicted of Driving While Prohibited, the individual will have a criminal record for the rest of their life. If there is enough evidence for the Crown to prove their case, it is often preferable to have the charge reduced to Driving While Under Suspension, a provincial offence under the Highway Traffic Act.

Driving While Under Suspension 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 penalties for these charges are significantly different as well. Driving While Prohibited charges carry much steeper penalties. Driving While Suspended carries lesser fines and no more than six months in jail. A Justice of the Peace presides over Provincial Offences matters, and it is rare to be sentenced to jail for a first offence of Driving While Under Suspension. Imprisonment is usually used as a “last resort” when fines and further suspensions do not deter the driver’s behaviour.

Legal Defense For a Driving While Prohibited Charge

If you are facing a charge for Driving While Prohibited, you should seek legal advice. Our experienced team of lawyers and paralegals can help you understand your rights, what penalties you are facing, and what you can do to improve your situation. There may be a legal defence available to you to that you are unaware of. The goal is to explore every available avenue and reduce the consequences to you as much as possible. Having adequate representation is the most important step to a successful legal defence.

Driving While Prohibited FAQs

What is the difference between Driving While Prohibited and Driving While Suspended?

Driving While Prohibited is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, while Driving While Suspended is a charge under the Highway Traffic Act. The key difference lies in the severity and nature of the charges.

What are the common reasons for being prohibited from driving?

A person can be prohibited from driving due to various reasons, including criminal convictions such as impaired driving, dangerous driving, and Highway Traffic Act offences like stunt driving. Medical conditions, failure to pay fines, and licence suspension for novices are also common reasons.

What are the penalties for Driving While Prohibited under the Criminal Code?

The penalties vary, but if convicted, the maximum punishment includes fines up to $5,000 (summary conviction) or up to ten years imprisonment (indictment).

Can I be charged with Driving While Prohibited if my licence was suspended for a non-criminal matter?

Yes, if you operate a motor vehicle while prohibited, regardless of the reason for the prohibition, you can be charged with Driving While Prohibited.

What are some possible defences against a charge of Driving While Prohibited?

Defences may include proving factual innocence, interlock exception, necessity in emergency situations, or challenging violations of Charter Rights, such as unreasonable search and seizure.

How can a paralegal help in a Driving While Prohibited case?

A lawyer can provide legal representation, assess the case for possible defences, negotiate with the Crown, and explore alternative outcomes.

What are the consequences of a conviction for Driving While Prohibited on insurance and driving record?

A conviction can lead to increased insurance rates, significant fines, and potentially long-term effects on your driving record, making it essential to seek legal advice.

How can I contact a paralegal for assistance with a Driving While Prohibited charge?

You can contact us at OTD Legal and take advantage of our Free Consultation.

What steps should I take if charged with Driving While Prohibited?

If you’re charged, it’s crucial to seek legal advice immediately. Contacting OTD Legal will help you understand your options, build a defence, and navigate through the legal process.


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Have You Been Charged With Driving While Prohibited In Ontario?

If you have been charged with Driving While Prohibited in Ontario, contact our office for a free, confidential consultation. You don’t have to navigate the legal system alone! We help drivers all over Ontario including Kitchener, London, Georgetown, Blind River, Leamington, and Windsor. You can complete an online request here, call us toll-free at 1-844-647-6869, or text a picture of your summons/paperwork to 226-240-2480.

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