What Happens When You Drive While Suspended?

Driving suspensions can be difficult for people. Many people need their licenses to get to work, to perform their jobs, or to deal with family obligations like driving kids to school or activities. A driving suspension can have a major impact on your life.

For this reason, a lot of people who are serving driving prohibitions may consider taking a risk and driving while they are suspended. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find information about what will happen if you drive while your license is suspended. Driving while suspended is illegal, and the consequences can be very severe.

This blog post helps to provide information about the various consequences of driving while suspended.

Arrested and Charged in Court

When you drive while suspended, there is a good chance that the police will catch you. This is because the police have automatic license plate scanners connected to their vehicles. These scanners are uploaded data showing which drivers are prohibited, and license plates associated to them.

While some people (including me) view these scanners as unlawful intrusions into privacy, I have challenged the use of them in driving while prohibited trials and the court has ruled that they are valid searches that do not reveal any private information.

This means that chances are high that police will catch you driving while prohibited, because all you have to do is drive past a police car that is equipped with one such scanner to be caught. You may not even see or notice the police vehicle.

Once a police officer determines that you are driving while suspended, you can be placed under arrest and given a court date and a charge. If your suspension is from a criminal conviction, you will be given a criminal charge. If your suspension is related to a provincial matter, you will be given a provincial charge. You will be required to appear in court, or a warrant will be issued for your arrest.

Traffic Tickets

Driving while suspended can lead to a traffic ticket. While this is typically done either by mistake or if the officer is giving you a break, the ticket is a serious charge. The most common ticket issued for this is driving without a valid license, and driving without insurance.

A driving without insurance ticket does not carry any points, but the fine is high – $598! The driving without a valid license ticket carries with it a $267 fine and three penalty points. If your suspension was caused by having too many points, getting the driving without a valid license ticket will only make that suspension longer.

Further Driving Prohibitions

If you drive while suspended, you may get a further driving prohibition. This can be imposed by the courts, if you are charged with driving while suspended, or it can be imposed by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles if you receive a ticket.

If you are convicted in court of driving while suspended, the mandatory minimum penalty as far as a further suspension is a one-year driving prohibition.

ICBC also has a policy of imposing driving prohibitions for people who receive tickets while they are suspended from driving. Even though the ticket may not have enough points to trigger a driving prohibition, ICBC has figured out that sometimes police officers do not charge drivers, and so they step in to impose a prohibition. If you get at ticket for driving without a license, you can expect a letter of prohibition to come in the mail.

Fines

If you are convicted of driving while prohibited or suspended in British Columbia, there are mandatory fines imposed by the court. These fines start at $500 for a first incident, and go up for subsequent incidents. The maximum fine for a provincial offence is $2000.

If you are charged with a criminal offence of driving while suspended, then you can face fines that have no maximum. If prosecuted by indictment, there is no limit to how high of a fine the court can impose. If your case is prosecuted summarily, the fine can be as high as $5000. Courts take a very dim view of people who choose to drive while suspended, and so you can anticipate that if you are given a fine it will be very high.

Insurance Invalidated

When you drive with a suspended license, you are considered to have no insurance. This means that if you are in an accident, you will not receive any coverage for the damage that you cause.

Many people try to avoid detection for suspended driving by taking vehicles that are not theirs and driving those instead. This is very foolish, because if you are in an accident you will have to pay out-of-pocket for any damage to the vehicle that you were driving as well as any other damage to third party vehicles or property or people. A single accident while suspended from driving can easily lead to hundreds of thousands of dollars in insurance payouts.

Moreover, when your insurance is invalidated and ICBC orders you to pay for the claim, you will not be permitted to obtain a license until the debt has been paid off. This can mean that you are ineligible to hold a driver’s license for years, or, depending on your financial circumstances, your entire life.

Jail

Yes, you can go to jail for driving while suspended.

If you receive a provincial charge for driving while suspended, jail is mandatory for all second and subsequent offences. Jail sentences start at 14 days and can go as long as six months. As the courts wan to show their strong disapproval for driving while suspended, jail sentences for these offences can be very common.

In a criminal charge for driving while suspended, you can face up to ten years in jail, depending on whether the matter is prosecuted summarily or by indictment. While a ten-year jail sentence is not likely, I have seen cases where people get more than a year in jail for repeated instances of suspended driving.

Criminal Record

Finally, driving while suspended can cause you to get a criminal record. Depending on the underlying reason for the suspension, if you are prosecuted for this offence criminally a conviction can carry with it a criminal record.

You do not want to run the risk of driving while suspended and the potential of another criminal conviction. If you do get such a conviction, you will have to wait a longer time before you can apply for a pardon. Having two related criminal convictions in a row will also make obtaining a pardon much more difficult down the road.

It is always a good idea to consult with a lawyer if you are facing a charge of driving while suspended. There are defences to these charges, and so speaking with a lawyer who is experienced in driving while suspended charges is in your best interest.

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