Impaired Driving: Getting Your License Back

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If you’re found guilty of impaired driving or driving with too much drugs or alcohol in your blood, you are automatically forbidden from driving. The Société d’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ or licence bureau) cancels your driver’s licence. The length of time you cannot drive is called the prohibition period. The length of this period depends on the specific offence and whether you were found guilty of similar offences in the past.

Obtaining a Restricted Licence during the prohibition period

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

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 the use of the vehicle.

Restricted licenses not available to everyone

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

Waiting periods for restricted licences

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

  • for a first conviction, the judge decides the waiting 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. You are prohibited from driving during these minimum waiting periods.

Important! It’s a crime to drive while you are prohibited from driving. 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 and impound it for 30 days at your expense.

How to apply for a restricted licence

You can apply for a restricted licence when the minimum waiting 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 when driving with a restricted licence

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. The supplier of the interlock device is responsible for transmitting the information collected by the device to the SAAQ. 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 and impound it at your 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 again be found guilty of a crime.

Getting Your 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 past convictions

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 (maintenance assessment):

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

This evaluation can take several months if you are in one of these situations:

  • You were 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 of driving with an excessive blood alcohol level
  • You were found guilty in the previous ten years of any alcohol- or drug-related offence or of refusing to do physical coordination 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, in the case of a second impaired driving offence.

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. In this case, you will be required to drive with an alcohol ignition interlock device. The duration of this requirement will depend on whether you have any previous offences and, if so, the type of offences.

To apply for a new licence, contact the SAAQ.