What is Driving While Disqualified?

Driving while disqualified is operating a motor vehicle (or vessel or aircraft) while a previous disqualification order remains in place.

You will receive a driving while disqualified charge if the law enforcement officers are satisfied that you: 

  1. Operated a motor vehicle (or vessel or aircraft) in Canada
  2. Were disqualified from doing so by the court (due to a conviction under the Criminal Code)
  3. Knew that you were driving while disqualified

What is driving while disqualified?

If you are found guilty of such an offence, there are serious consequences both in the short and long-term, as set out in Section 259 of the Criminal Code.

These include a significant fine, potential jail time, and a lifelong addiction to your criminal record.

Is driving while disqualified the same as driving while suspended?

No. These are separate offences according to Canadian law.

Driving while disqualified can be prosecuted by the Crown as an indictable or summary offence, as detailed in the Criminal Code.

A driving disqualification usually follows a conviction for a criminal offence such as a DWI or DUI. A court order will inform you of the duration of your disqualification.

If you are then caught operating a vehicle during this exclusion period, you will face charges of driving while disqualified.

Unless charges are dismissed, successfully defended, or negotiated, you will end up with an addition to your criminal record.

What are the penalties for driving while disqualified?

The penalties in a driving while disqualified conviction matches the severity of the offence. They include:

  • Prison time of up to five years
  • A criminal record (or addition to it) that will last for up to 80 years
  • A substantial fine

These are the immediate penalties that will apply in the case of a conviction.

The longer-term consequences of a driving while disqualified conviction may be even more concerning. 

Your conviction is likely to affect:

  • Your career
  • Your finances
  • Your freedom of movement
  • Your immigration status (if you’re not Canadian) 
  • Your ability to get insurance

How do the penalties differ for driving while suspended?

Driving while suspended is considered a lesser charge and is punishable under provincial law.

So, the laws of Alberta will apply here. Your license may be suspended by the province for a variety of reasons, both driving-related and non-driving-related.

These include:

  • Speeding
  • Exceeding the demerit point limit
  • Other traffic offences
  • Not paying child support

None of these are criminal offences but they do justify the suspension of a license by the provincial government (rather than disqualification from driving).

While it is considered a lesser charge, if you are caught driving while suspended, penalties in Alberta may still be severe:

  • A new driving suspension of six months on top of the original suspension
  • A substantial fine
  • Possible jail time up to 14 days
  • Additional vehicle towing and impound fees

Other consequences like increased insurance premiums and potential problems with finding work are the natural knock-on effects of being caught driving while your license is suspended.

Note that the period of disqualification imposed by the Court and by provincial authorities are not always the same length. 

So, your court-ordered disqualification may expire before your provincial government-imposed license suspension. 

This means that even when your disqualification no longer applies, you may still be breaking the law by driving your vehicle. You need to get your license back from the local government before you can legally drive again.

Note also that, in cases where the provincial driving license suspension is a consequence of a conviction under the criminal code, a further conviction of driving while disqualified can be pursued against you.

What is your best chance of avoiding a conviction for driving while disqualified?

The consequences of driving while disqualified are severe and will impact many areas of your life well into the future.

Even where the evidence is convincing, you may still have a chance of avoiding a criminal charge.

Your best chance of avoiding these punishments is to call Cory Wilson at (403) 978-6052 today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

About Cory Wilson

Cory has represented individuals from all walks of life including lawyers, police officers, athletes, corporate executives, teachers, and everything in between. Cory believes in access to justice for every person charged with a criminal offence regardless of their economic background.

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Tel: 403-978-6052