You will be guilty of driving while disqualified when you operate a motor vehicle, vessel, or aircraft while disqualified from doing so because of a previous driving suspension or disqualification. In order to secure a conviction for the offence, the Crown will need to prove that you were operating a motor vehicle on any street in Canada, that you were disqualified from doing so, and that you knew that you were driving while disqualified.
Typically licence disqualifications will follow a conviction for a criminal driving offence, such as an impaired driving offence, dangerous driving, or flight from the police. If you are disqualified from driving as part of a criminal sentence, you will have a court order that specifies the length of your driving disqualification. If you drive before that suspension ends, you will be guilty of driving while disqualified. It is important to note that court imposed driving prohibitions and the driving prohibitions imposed by the provincial government do not always run for the same length of time. If you received a one-year driving prohibition in court, you will still need to take additional steps to end the government-imposed licence suspension, even if your court-imposed driving prohibition has ended.
The steps required to reinstate your licence vary from province to province, but you can generally expect that you will have to pay any outstanding fines related to the suspension and complete some court or government mandated programs before you can get your licence back.
If you fail to take the steps required to reinstate your licence and immediately begin driving after your court-imposed disqualification has ended, you will actually still be guilty of driving while disqualified.
What is the difference between driving while disqualified and driving while suspended?
While they might seem the same, driving while suspended and driving while disqualified are actually two distinct charges. Driving while disqualified is a charge that is punished under section 259 of the Criminal Code. As such, if you are convicted of driving while disqualified, you will have a criminal record. By contrast, driving while suspended is a charge that is punishable under provincial law. The province can suspend your licence for a wide range of reasons that are not criminal offences, such as traffic offences, accumulating demerit points, or not paying child support. However, if your suspension arises from a conviction under the Criminal Code and you are caught driving with a provincial suspension, you can still be found guilty of the criminal offence of driving while disqualified.
If you are caught driving while suspended, you can still face the same penalties as you would if you were charged with a criminal offence. That means you will face a new driving suspension, fines, and even jail. You can also expect to pay additional towing and impound fees if your vehicle is seized by the police, and you can expect that your insurance will increase after you are found guilty of the offence.