Drinking, Drugs and Driving: Getting Your Licence Back

arenacreative / iStock / Thinkstock

Anyone found guilty of impaired driving or driving with too much drugs or alcohol in their blood is automatically forbidden from driving. The Société d’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ or licence bureau) cancels the person’s driver’s licence. 

The length of time the person cannot drive is called the prohibition period. It depends on the specific offence and whether the person was found guilty of similar offences in the past.

Usually, the person must wait until the prohibition period ends to get a new licence. But in some situations, the person can get a special licence, called a restricted licence, before the period ends.

This article explains the main rules on

  • restricted licences, and
  • getting a new licence after the prohibition period. 


Restricted Licence

A restricted licence lets you drive during the prohibition period. But you can only drive a vehicle equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device approved by the SAAQ. The device prevents the vehicle from starting if it detects alcohol on your breath. It also collects information about use of the vehicle.

To get a restricted licence, you must meet all the requirements of the SAAQ, even if you need to drive for your work. 

You cannot get a restricted licence in these situations:

  • the judge’s decision does not allow it 
  • the licence that was cancelled was a learner’s licence
  • your licence was not valid when you committed the offence that led to the driving prohibition


Prohibition Period

In all other situations, the SAAQ can give you a restricted licence after the minimum prohibition period. These are the minimum prohibition periods:

  • for a first conviction, the judge decides the prohibition period
  • for a second conviction, three months after the judge’s decision 
  • for any convictions after that, six months after the judge’s decision 

The judge who ordered the driving prohibition can extend these minimum periods. 

Important!  It’s a crime to drive during the prohibition period. You can be fined between $1,500 to $3,000 and even be sent to prison for up to 10 years. The police officer can immediately seize your vehicle for 30 days at your own expense.      


How to apply 

You can apply for a restricted licence when the minimum prohibition period is over. These are the steps to follow:

  • Rent an alcohol ignition interlock device from a government-approved supplier.
  • Go to an SAAQ office with the rental contract to get the licence
  • Pay the licence fee.

You must also pay for installing the device on your vehicle and the monthly rental fee

For more information, visit the SAAQ website.


Rules to obey

With a restricted licence, you can drive only a vehicle equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device. You must also obey the SAAQ rules for using the device and, when asked, give the SAAQ the information the device collects. 

If you drive a vehicle without an alcohol ignition interlock device or don’t obey the SAAQ rules, you will be treated as a driver without a licence. If the police stop you, they can immediately seize and impound your vehicle at your own expense. You can also be fined from $1,500 to $3,000, your restricted licence can be cancelled or suspended for three months, and you can be found guilty of another crime.


Getting a Regular Licence Back 

When your licence is cancelled, it no longer exists. You don’t automatically get it back after the prohibition period. You must meet some requirements before you can get a new licence. 


Evaluation of Your Relationship With Alcohol or Drugs 

Getting a new driver’s licence depends on the number and type of offences you were found guilty of in the previous ten years. Usually, the SAAQ will evaluate you to make sure your relationship with alcohol or drugs does not prevent you from driving safely. 

The main requirement for getting a new licence is to pass an evaluation of your relationship with alcohol or drugs. This is done in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation centre, or in a hospital that offers rehabilitation services. 

Short evaluation. If this is your first offence, you will usually have only a short evaluation (maintenance assessment).

If you pass the short assessment, you will have to attend an awareness session on alcohol- and drug-related problems before you can get a new driver’s licence. 

If you fail the short evaluation, you must undergo a complete evaluation.  

Complete evaluation. But the evaluation can take several months (comprehensive assessment) if you are in one of these situations:

  • You are found guilty of refusing to do physical coordination tests or give a breath or blood sample, even if it is your first offence.
  • You were found guilty in the previous ten years of an alcohol- or drug-related offence or of refusing to the tests or give a blood or breath sample.


Other tests

If your licence was suspended or cancelled for three years or more, you must also pass the theory and driving tests given to new drivers. 

If you had a learner’s permit at the time of the offence, you must complete the learning period and pass the standard theory and driving tests in addition to passing the evaluation. 


Alcohol Ignition Interlock Device

If you pass the evaluation and other tests, you can get a new licence. But in most situations, you will only be allowed to drive a vehicle equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device. This requirement can be for one to three years or even for life, depending on your offence and the number of similar convictions in the previous ten years.

The only exception to this requirement is when you had to undergo only a short evaluation and you passed it.   

To apply for a new licence, contact the SAAQ.

Important !
This article explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. This article is not a legal opinion or legal advice. To find out the specific rules for your situation, consult a lawyer or notary.