Being unable to drive is tough. It’s inconvenient at best and damaging to your livelihood at worst. Unfortunately, Ontario’s legal system is tough on traffic-related crime, so if you’re under licence suspension, you cannot operate a motor vehicle on public roads under any circumstances—not even in case of an emergency and it is seen as far worse than a standard traffic violation. If you’re caught driving with a suspended license and end up with another conviction—even if you are not a person who is a habitual traffic offender—you could be in serious trouble and could even end up doing jail time.
What does it mean to Drive with a Suspended Licence?
Licence suspension is a formal process by which your legal ability to drive is temporarily revoked. This means that a person cannot drive on public roads in Ontario or other provinces while their licence is under suspension and the suspension is likely to apply outside of Canada as well. Because these records are kept electronically, you won’t be able to hide the fact that your licence is suspended.
This means that if you are caught driving for any reason, even if an officer simply notices you have a headlight out and pulls you over for a friendly warning while your licence has been revoked, you are breaking the law. You are not a legally licenced driver while under suspension, even if you were before and will be after. If you’re pulled over by a police officer for violating a different traffic law, like impaired driving or exceeding the speed limit, the charge of driving with a suspended licence is will come as an additional criminal charge. In other words, if your licence is suspended and you choose to drive, you open yourself up to a lot of risk and a great amount of potential punishment in the days ahead.
Licence suspension periods vary based on the traffic offence or crime they’re associated with. A suspension is not the same thing as a cancellation. As long as you follow the rules, you’ll be able to start driving again when your suspension period is over. You may need to do some extra tasks to renew your licence, like take a vision or road test, but having your licence reinstated means you no longer need to worry about the charge of driving with a suspended licence. It also means that any demerit points on your record will be reduced to 7 for fully licenced drivers and 4 for novices.
Specifics Matter: Traffic Violations vs. Criminal Violations
Ontario has some of the strictest laws governing suspended licence procedure in Canada. However, the exact penalties you’ll face vary based on the kind of offence that brought about the suspension in the first place. Suspensions due to Highway Traffic Act (HTA) violations or offences committed on public roads and in motor vehicles in general are dealt with differently than suspensions due to Criminal Code violations.
For example, any time you get caught driving with a suspended licence, you’ll have to pay a fine. The minimum fine for a first-time driving under suspension conviction is $1,000 for HTA violations and $5,000 for Criminal Code violations while the maximum is $5,000 for HTA offences and $25,000 for Criminal Code offences. Fines go up much higher for second offences—ranging from $5,000 to $50,000—again with Criminal Code offences carrying a much higher penalty than HTA violations.
In addition to fines, prison time is not uncommon in these cases. Even HTA violations can result in 6 months of prison time while Criminal Code offenders can spend as many as 2 years in prison. You can also find that additional time ranging from 6 months to 2 or 3 years can be added to your current suspension, making driving under suspension a major risk. Regardless of the underlying cause of the suspension, you absolutely should not drive with a suspended licence. But penalties for Criminal Code offences are particularly steep. A $50,000 fine, a 2-year prison term and/or 3-year licence suspension is would have a serious impact on your life.
What Can You Do When You’re Caught Driving with a Suspended Licence
If you’re ticked or charged with driving while your Ontario driver's licence is suspended, you’ll want to do a few things right away. First, take any necessary steps to ensure you won’t have to drive again. The way you handle this is up to you, but the bottom line is that it is essential to avoid further offences in this area. Your response could even mean selling your car so you aren’t tempted to drive and using that money to pay for a taxi or public transportation services. Other solutions include carpooling with coworkers who aren’t on suspended licences or getting a bicycle to get around.
You should also get in touch with a traffic lawyer in Simcoe County as soon as possible after you’re caught driving with a suspended licence. Don’t wait on this—a lawyer can review your case quickly and help you understand what potential consequences are on the horizon and this can be important. Experienced lawyers will help you navigate this anxiety-provoking issue and can provide good guidance as well.
A lawyer may even be able to get charges against you reduced or argue for the lightest possible punishment in your case. This is all a valuable service that you’ll want to make use of. Simply going into court by yourself and simply letting the judge decide what happens without having a skilled legal expert to advocate for you and look out for procedural errors on the part of the police or the court.
A suspended licence is nothing to trifle within Ontario. The best way to avoid getting caught is to not violate the suspension in the first place. While your licence is suspended, driving anywhere, under any circumstances, is a violation. The law is fairly clear-cut on this, but what happens after you’re caught isn’t necessarily set in stone. Get in touch with our Barrie offices today. We’ll help you keep the damage to a minimum.