Getting Your Driver's Licence Back After an Alcohol-Related Offence

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Pierre was found guilty of impaired driving. The judge ordered him not to drive a vehicle for a year. His friend Maxime told Pierre that he could ask for a restricted licence that would let him to drive anyway. What is a restricted licence? Who can get one? What are the rules on getting a new "regular" driver's licence?

In this article, Éducaloi explains the rules on restricted licences, and the steps, costs and timeframe involved in getting a new driver's licence.

I was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. Can I still drive?

Not right away. Your conviction affects your right to drive in two ways:

1) When the judge convicted you, he ordered you not to drive a motor vehicle for a certain amount of time:

  • one to three years for a first conviction
  • two to five years for a second conviction
  • at least three years for any convictions after the second one

2) The Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ), also known as the licence bureau, cancelled your driver's licence. The earliest you can ask for another one is at the end of the period the judge ordered you not to drive. If this is your second or third conviction in the past 10 years, the SAAQ will only give you a new driver's licence after three or five years have passed.

However, you can get a special driver's licence called a "restricted licence" even if your regular licence was cancelled. You don't automatically get a restricted licence, and even if you get one, some conditions apply.

What is a restricted licence?

A restricted licence lets you drive while you are waiting to get back your "regular" licence or when you've lost the right to have a regular licence.

There are many kinds of restricted licences. In this article, Éducaloi only deals with the restricted licence related to alcohol and driving. This restricted licence is only given to people who have lost their regular licences because of an order under the Criminal Code forbidding them from driving.

A person with a restricted licence can only drive a vehicle equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device. This device prevents the car from starting when alcohol is detected on the driver's breath. The device must be approved by the SAAQ.

To request a restricted licence, you must rent an alcohol ignition interlock device from a government-approved supplier. Once you sign up for the rental, you can go to an SAAQ office with the rental contract made out in your name and pay the necessary fees for the licence.

Important! Drivers with a learner's permit who have committed an alcohol-related offence while driving can't ask for a restricted licence. They must wait until the end of the period the judge ordered them not to drive before they are allowed to drive again and finish their learning period. Also, they will only be able to drive a vehicle equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device.

When can I apply for a restricted licence?

If it is your first conviction, you must wait three months to apply for a restricted licence. This licence lets you drive a vehicle equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device.

If it is your second conviction, you must wait six months to apply for a restricted licence.

For any convictions after that, you must wait one year.

However, the judge can order a longer waiting period than the three months, six months or one year if he thinks this is appropriate in your case. The Criminal Code allows the judge to choose a longer waiting period before you can only apply for a restricted licence.

The judge can also decide that you shouldn't be driving at all. This means a total restriction on driving for the period of time the judge orders. Also, even after the period ordered by judge ends, the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) does not have to give you a new driver's licence. Other rules apply. See the question "How do I get a new driver's licence after being convicted of an offence?"

What rules do I have to follow with a restricted licence?

You can only drive a vehicle equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device.

Also, if the SAAQ asks for it, you must provide the information collected by this device to the SAAQ . The SAAQ decides what conditions apply to the use of the device, and it will cancel the restricted licence if a driver doesn't respect these conditions.

If you have a restricted licence and drive a vehicle without an alcohol ignition interlock device, you are considered to be driving without a licence, which is an offence.

What if I need a driver's licence to work?

Even if you need a driver's licence to work, you can only get a restricted licence if you meet all the requirements for this kind of licence. Also, the car you drive must be equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device.

How do I get a new driver's licence after being convicted of an offence?

You must wait until the end of the period the judge ordered you not to drive, or the end of the period imposed by the SAAQ for your right to get a licence, if the SAAQ period is longer than the one ordered by the judge. For more on the length of these periods, read our article Drinking and Driving.

The conditions for getting back your driver's licence depend on the number of offences you committed in the last 10 years and the type of offences.

If this is your first offence in the last 10 years and your blood-alcohol level is between 80mg/100ml, you also have to undergo, at your own expense, an evaluation of your alcohol consumption habits at an alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre or at a hospital that offers these services. If you pass the evaluation, you must successfully complete, at your own expense, an information and awareness program called Alcofrein, which is organized by the government. Only then can you ask for a driver's licence without any restrictions.

However, if the first evaluation shows that your alcohol consumption habits prevent you from driving safely, you have to pay for and pass a more in-depth evaluation done by the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ).

If you pass the in-depth evaluation, you can get a driver's licence, as long as your vehicle is equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device for one year, at your expense. This device prevents the car from starting when alcohol is detected on the driver's breath.

If you fail the in-depth evaluation, you can still get a licence, but for a limited time, and the vehicle you drive must have an alcohol ignition interlock device.

In other cases, you must undergo an in-depth evaluation, at your own expense, at an alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre or at a hospital that offers these services.

If this evaluation reveals that your alcohol consumption habits prevent you from driving safely, you can only obtain a licence for a limited time. Also, any vehicle you drive must be equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device. But if the evaluation shows you can drive safely, you are allowed to get a driver's licence. However, the vehicle you drive must still be equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device.

The amount of time you need to drive with an alcohol ignition interlock device depends on the type of offence you committed and how many times you repeated the offence in the last 10 years.

You must drive with an alcohol ignition interlock device for two years in these cases:

  • Your blood-alcohol level was between 80mg/100ml and 160mg/100ml and in the last 10 years your licence was cancelled or suspended for another alcohol-related offence (blood-alcohol level over 80mg/100ml or refusal to provide a breath sample).
  • Your blood-alcohol level is over 160mg/100ml and this is your first offence in the last 10 years.
  • You refused to provide a breath sample and this is your first offence in the last 10 years.

You must drive with an alcohol ignition interlock device for three years in these cases:

  • Your blood-alcohol level was over 160mg/100ml and in the last 10 years your licence was cancelled or suspended for driving with a blood-alcohol level between 80mg/100ml and 160mg/100ml.
  • You refused to provide a breath sample and in the last 10 years your licence was cancelled or suspended for driving with a blood-alcohol level between 80mg/100ml and 160mg/100ml.

You must drive with an alcohol ignition interlock device for the rest of your life in these cases:

  • Your blood-alcohol level was over 160mg/100ml OR you refused to provide a breath sample and your licence was cancelled or suspended for one of these offences in the last 10 years.
  • You committed a third offence.

In all of these cases, if your licence was cancelled or suspended for more than three years, the SAAQ can require you to retake any of the exams needed for getting back your driver's licence.

Do I have to pay for a new driver's licence?

Yes, you must pay all the expenses of getting a new licence. Visit the website of the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec to learn about the costs.

What happens if I get caught driving while my licence is cancelled?

If you drive while your licence is suspended or cancelled and you don't have a restricted licence, a few things could happen.

First, the police officer can seize your car on the spot for 30 days. She can do this even if the vehicle belongs to someone else. The cost of towing and storage of the vehicle will be billed to the vehicle's owner. This is why, if you lend someone your car, it is important to check with the SAAQ that this person has a valid licence.

Also, the fine is between $1,500 and $3,000.

Secondly, driving while you are under an order not to drive is a crime under the Criminal Code. The penalties under the Criminal Code are more serious than the ones described above. They can involve a prison sentence of up to five years. Also, the judge will probably lengthen the period during which you are not allowed to drive a motor vehicle.

 

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.

Articles in the category "Driving"