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Driving While Prohibited

The Charge

British Columbia drivers can become prohibited drivers if, as part of a sentence to a Criminal Code or Motor Vehicle Act offence, a judge imposes a period of prohibition. Likewise, a driver can become prohibited if they blow a “warn” or a “fail” as the result of an Immediate Roadside Prohibition investigation. Furthermore, a driver can be prohibited by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles when they accumulate a bad driving record, including offences that carry demerit points, and they are served with a Notice of Intent to Prohibit.

Driving while prohibited is a serious matter under both the Criminal Code and the Motor Vehicle Act. Under either statute, a first time offender faces a mandatory 12-month driving prohibition and a substantial fine of $500 – $2,000. A prison sentence of up to six months is a possibility for a first time offender; a mandatory minimum prison sentence of at least 14 days is required for a second offence and a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 days in jail is required for each subsequent offence. In order to obtain a guilty verdict for driving while prohibited, the Crown must prove (a) that the driver was, in fact, prohibited by the courts or the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles and that (b) the driver had knowledge that they were prohibited.

The Investigation

The Automated Licence Plate Recognition (ALRP) System is a licence plate recognition system employed by BC police agencies that allows vehicles observed by police cameras to have their licence plate read and recorded. The goal is to reduce motor vehicle violations, in particular those related to unlicensed, uninsured and prohibited drivers. Police will use this technology, or at times, will simply detain and check a driver to see if they are properly licensed. Upon pulling over a vehicle which police suspect is being driven by a prohibited driver, the officer will attempt to illicit an incriminating admission by the driver in which they acknowledge that they are prohibited. It is useful to know that a driver, though obligated to produce a valid driver’s licence and to identify themselves to police, has no obligation to engage in a conversation regarding any knowledge of a driving prohibition.

Recent Successes

R. v. S.C. – Vancouver Police Investigation

Charge: Assault.
Issue: Whether there was credible evidence that would meet the charge approval standard.
Result: Mr. Gauthier provided information to the investigating officer that led the investigator to conclude that our client was not chargeable with a criminal offence. No charge approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. C.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Assault; Forcible Confinement (domestic).
Issue: Given the rehabilitative steps we were able to guide our through, whether it was in the public interest for our client to be sentenced to a criminal record.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown to proceed only on the assault charge and, after hearing Mr. Gauthier's submissions, the Court granted our client a conditional discharge. No criminal conviction.

R.M. vs. Superintendent of Motor Vehicles

Charge: 90 Day Immediate Roadside prohibition.
Issue: Whether the police report established, on balance, that our client had refused to provide a breath sample during a roadside impaired driving investigation.
Result: The adjudicator agreed with Mr. Mines' submissions that our client's evidence was more reliable than the evidence set out in the Police Report to the Superintendent. The 90 day driving prohibition was overturned and our client was ruled eligible to resume driving.

R. vs. E.W. – Fort Nelson Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issue: Whether there was a substantial likelihood of a criminal conviction.
Result: Upon reviewing the allegations, Mr. Mines made representations to Crown counsel resulting in Crown agreeing that there was no reasonable prospect of convicting our client. No charges were approved. No criminal record.

R. vs. H.K. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Assault Peace Officer; Mischief Under $5000.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to proceed with criminal charges.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to  persuade Crown counsel to allow our client into the Alternative Measures Program and to enter a stay of proceedings on both charges upon our client completing the program. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.S. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from weapons charge).
Issue: Whether there was a public interest in proceeding with the prosecution of our client who had failed to complete a course of court ordered counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to steer our client through an equivalent course of counselling. Upon completion, Crown counsel stayed the proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. S.P. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charge: Mischief Causing Danger to Life.
Issue: Given the medical evidence Mr. Gauthier provided to Crown counsel, whether it was in the public interest to proceed with the criminal prosecution.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal record.

R. vs. R.A. – Vancouver Provincial Court

Charges: Breaking & Entering; Unlawful Confinement; Assault.
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest for the prosecution to continue against our client, a U.S. citizen who was in Canada on a visitor's visa.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings on all charges upon our client agreeing to a Deportation Order. No criminal record.

R. vs. P.N. – Surrey Provincial Court

Charge: Dangerous Driving Causing Death. Issue: Whether Crown could prove that our client had the necessary intent to prove that she was guilty of the criminal charge. Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to proceed under the Motor Vehicle Act rather than the Criminal Code. After hearing Mr. Mines'  submissions, the Court sentenced our client to 60 days to be served on weekends. The Crown had originally sought a sentence in the range of 2 years.

R. vs. L.A. – New Westminster Provincial Court

Charge: Breach of Probation (from domestic assault charge).
Issue: Whether it was in the public interest to prosecute our client for failing to report and complete counselling.
Result: Mr. Gauthier was able to guide our client back onto an alternative course of rehabilitation and persuaded Crown counsel to enter a stay of proceedings. No criminal conviction.

R. vs. M.K. – Richmond Provincial Court

Charges: Uttering Threats; Extortion.
Issue: Given the age of the charges and the rehabilitative steps our client had taken, whether a jail sentence was appropriate.
Result: Mr. Mines was able to persuade Crown counsel to seek a non custodial sentence. After hearing Mr. Mines' submissions, the Court granted our client a suspended sentence and placed him on probation for 16 months. No jail.

R. vs. K.A. – Western Communities Provincial Court

Charge: Assault (domestic).
Issues: Given the information we provided to Crown counsel regarding the complainant's past unlawful behaviour toward our client, whether there was a substantial likelihood of a conviction.
Result: As a result of the information we provided, Crown counsel withdrew the charge. No further bail restrictions. No criminal record.

The Defence

While it is not possible to go “behind” the driving prohibition by arguing that the court, or the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles should not have prohibited the driver to start with, a defence to prohibited driving is that the driver had no knowledge of the prohibition having been imposed. Significantly, the Crown has the burden of proving that the accused knew they were the subject of a driving prohibition. This can be problematic for the Crown when, for example, they are trying to prove knowledge by the fact the Superintendent mailed a Notice of Intent to Prohibit to the accused. As experienced defence lawyers, we can present arguments that challenge the presumption that the accused was ever aware of the prohibition. For example, just because a letter was mailed, it does not follow that the letter was actually received or read by the accused. Likewise, it may be difficult for an officer who issued a 90-day Immediate Roadside Prohibition to prove that he actually served notice of the prohibition on the accused. In rare cases, it is possible to advocate the defence of “necessity” in prohibited driving cases. Where, for example, a prohibited driver chooses to drive in order to save a life, the court ought to find the driver not guilty.

Driving while prohibited charges are an area in which we have had great success in being able to negotiate satisfactory resolutions for our clients. By presenting Crown counsel with a full background of our client’s circumstances, and reasons for driving, we have been able to persuade Crown to proceed on the lesser, related offence of driving without holding a valid driver’s licence, under s. 24 of the Motor Vehicle Act. The advantage of this offence is that it does not require any mandatory driving prohibition whatsoever.

Start with a free consultation.

If you are being investigated by police or if you’ve been charged with a criminal or driving offence, don’t face the problem alone. Being accused of an offence is stressful. The prospects of a criminal record or jail sentence can be daunting. Even if you think there is no defence, we may be able to help. To schedule a free initial consultation with one of our Vancouver lawyers, contact us now.