License Suspensions

Not all of the negative effects of driving after consuming alcohol or drugs come from the Criminal Code. Most provinces allow for license suspensions in addition to criminal charges—or in some cases, even without criminal charges.

What is a license suspension?

A license suspension is a temporary loss of your ability to drive legally. When your license is suspended, you are not permitted to drive any type of vehicle, on or off the road. Your vehicle may be taken from you and impounded at your expense. Reinstatement of your license costs $50, and for certain suspensions you may also be forced to retake a driving test (at a cost of $30 – 175) and/or attend programming with the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba (costing over $600). You will also be forced to pay an additional driver’s license premium.

License suspensions are issued by the provincial driver’s licensing agency (in Manitoba, this is Manitoba Public Insurance). They are different than driving prohibitions, which are issued by the Criminal Code.

How can my license be suspended?

Your license may be suspended if you fail a roadside breath screening, refuse to comply with a police officer’s demand for a physical coordination test or breath sample, or have a blood alcohol content of 0.05 or higher. Note that this is lower than the blood alcohol content of over 0.08 required for a criminal charge. You can also have your license suspended if a police officer believes you are too impaired to perform a coordination test or provide a breath or blood sample.

How long do suspensions last?

If a police officer believes you are too impaired to perform a coordination test or provide a sample, your license will be immediately suspended for 24 hours.

If you fail a coordination test, have a BAC between 0.05 and 0.08, or get a result of “warn” on an ASD, your license will be immediately suspended for 3 days (if it is your first offence). This length of time increases each subsequent time you commit the offence:

  • Second offence within 10 years: immediate 15 day suspension
  • Third offence within 10 years: immediate 30 day suspension
  • All subsequent offences within 10 years: immediate 60 day suspension

If you have a BAC over 0.08, refuse to participate in a coordination test, or refuse to provide a sample, your license can be immediately suspended for 3 months.

Suspensions following convictions

If you are convicted of a driving offence under the Criminal Code, you will be subject to an even longer license suspension:

 First offenceSecond offenceThird offenceSubsequent offences
Impaired driving1 year5 years10 yearslifetime
Driving “Over 80”1 year5 years10 yearslifetime
Refusal to provide a sample2 years7 years10 yearslifetime
Impaired driving
causing bodily harm or death
5 years10 yearslifetimelifetime

In order to get your license back after a criminal conviction, you will also need to participate in MPI’s Ignition Interlock program.

Driving prohibitions

While the effect of a driving prohibition and license suspension is basically the same (that is, you are prevented from legally driving), it is important to understand the differences. A driver’s prohibition comes from the Criminal Code and can only be issued upon a criminal conviction for certain offences: impaired driving, driving over 80, or refusal to provide a sample . A license suspension can be issued by MPI for a wide variety of reasons, including things like speeding.

Driving prohibitions under the Criminal Code have the following sentences:

  • First offence: 1-3 years
  • Second offence: 2-5 years
  • All subsequent offences: minimum 3 years

These prohibitions do not begin until any prison sentence imposed by a judge ends. Driving while suspended or prohibited is a separate offence under the Criminal Code and can lead to a sentence of up to 5 years.

Do they affect my criminal record?

License suspensions do not show up on your criminal record, but they will show up on your driver record through MPI. If your suspension is the result of a criminal conviction, however, your conviction will appear on your criminal record.

Disclaimer: this article is for information purposes only and is not legal advice. For legal advice, contact Matt Gould now to discuss your case.