Drivers license for work
“I’ll be okay if I can just drive for work. Can you just get me my drivers license for work?”
It’s one of the most common questions that we’re asked. It’s usually followed or preceded by “so-and-so told me that I could get a restricted license.” The interesting thing from our perspective as BC driving lawyers is that people ask this question so often. At least once a week someone calls and says that they’re okay with the driving prohibition from their impaired driving charge, so long as they can get a license to drive for work. It’s almost as though this is the most common thing around. But does it exist? Can you get a drivers license for work?
The question properly framed is can someone who is prohibited from driving nevertheless be permitted to drive for the purposes of work? Or you might say, if you’re facing a driving prohibition, is it possible to obtain a license that permits you to drive for work?
The law in BC on restricted licenses
There are various types of driving prohibitions that arise from the application of the BC Motor Vehicle Act. Alcohol driving prohibitions under section 215 of the Motor Vehicle Act can be as short as 1 day to as long as 90-days, depending on what the police put in their report. If you’re convicted of Driving While Prohibited, the minimum punishment on a first offence is a 1-year prohibition (harsh!) and it just goes up from there. If the people at RoadSafetyBC think your driving record is unsatisfactory, they can pull your license for whatever period they see fit, so long as they comply with the correct procedure.
If you’re convicted of any Criminal Code driving offense, section 99 of the Motor Vehicle Act kicks in. This is one of the really sneaky sections of the Motor Vehicle Act because it hits you when you least expect it. For example, if you’re found guilty of Dangerous Driving, which is a crime, the judge may grant you an absolute discharge, leaving you with no criminal record whatsoever. The reason a judge can do this is because there is no minimum punishment in the Criminal Code if you’re found guilty of Dangerous Driving. But even an absolute discharge for a Criminal Code driving offence triggers the application of section 99 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act. In other words, even if the judge thinks it was really not serious and you’re a person of good character, and even though the judge doesn’t make the order prohibiting you from driving, you’re still automatically prohibited because of section 99.
Most people who deal with driving law don’t seem to know this. Very few of the judges know about the application of section 99. That’s why we call it one of the really sneaky sections of the Motor Vehicle Act. You can walk out of court without a driving prohibition, yet from that moment you’re prohibited from driving. Who would have known?
We deal with driving cases every day, so we know this and we keep it in mind when we defend these charges.
A restricted license under the BC Motor Vehicle Act?
The BC Motor Vehicle Act is a tricky law. There are 269 sections with thousands of subsections and provisions that refer to the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations and other BC and federal laws. Of course we read through the entire thing as part of our job as BC driving lawyers. One thing of note is that there is NO provision in the Motor Vehicle Act to provide for a restricted license or a license for the purpose of work. It doesn’t exist. In the Motor Vehicle Act there is no such thing.
What that means is that if you get an Immediate Roadside Prohibition you can’t get it varied or changed so you can drive a work vehicle or during work days. If you are convicted of Driving While Prohibited, the judge has no choice but to prohibit you from driving for a minimum of one year every minute of the day. If the people at RoadSafetyBC decide to issue you a prohibition because they think your driving record stinks, it will be for every minute of every day until the prohibition has elapsed.
The exception and how it works:
There is a freakishly unusual exception to all of this, and that arises if you have already lost your trial for driving while prohibited or for a Criminal Code driving offense. If you have lost and you have been prohibited from driving, and if you then appeal your case to either BC Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal, then the Court may be able to do something about the driving prohibition.
What happens is the judge who finds you guilty then prohibits you from driving because that is the law and a driving prohibition is a mandatory consequence. If you then appeal the finding of guilt, you can ask the higher court to relieve you of the punishment while the appeal itself works its way through the court. The judge at the higher level of court has options. They can suspend the punishment during the time up until the actual appeal hearing. In other words, the higher court could lift the driving prohibition, although it may be temporary.
What about a drivers license for work? The appeal court judge may release the driver on bail which includes conditions that act very much like a restricted driver’s license. For example, if a person is convicted of impaired driving, (drunk driving) the judge at the appeal court may order that during the time waiting for the appeal hearing the person may drive for the purpose of work as part of conditions of bail. For example, the court bail condition might say “You may not occupy the driver’s seat of a motor vehicle except during the course of your employment or to drive to and from your place of work.”
A bail condition such as this permits you to drive for the purpose of work. In such case the actual driving prohibition is put aside while the court deals with the appeal. In the event that you lose, the entire driving prohibition must be served. This is the closest thing we have in BC to getting a drivers license for work.
How often do people in BC get a driver’s license for work?
There are millions of drivers in BC, and thousands of people facing driving charge offences every year in our province. It may be fewer than one case per year in recent years that a person is placed on bail during an appeal period and permitted to drive for the purpose of work.
The striking thing is that it is so rare. It can be done, but it’s so infrequent because appeals of lower court decisions on these sorts of cases are very infrequent, and in most cases, unless the person has a really bad driving record, the Crown prosecutor will usually consent to the driving prohibition being lifted pending the outcome of the appeal. So it’s almost never necessary.
What surprises us
The thing we can’t wrap our heads around is why so many people think that they can get a license to drive for work. The legend of the mythical restricted license is ubiquitous and pervasive. Many people ask us about getting a drivers license for work and they seem surprised when we tell them that there is no such thing.
The conflict of laws
As lawyers we often struggle with apparently inconsistent, contradictory or competing laws. For example, what happens if you appeal a criminal driving prohibition and the judge orders that the Criminal Code driving suspension be put aside while the appeal is underway? In that case, you’re not prohibited from driving because the driving prohibition under the Criminal Code has been put in abeyance. Of course, an appeal doesn’t lift the conviction from your driving record. So, despite the appeal and the temporary order of the court lifting the driving prohibition, you are probably still prohibited from driving by virtue of section 99 of the Motor Vehicle Act.
How can that be? Here the law makes no sense to us.
If, however, you’re charged with Driving While Prohibited, or any other driving offence we’ll do our job to put the law on your side. Call us now and we’ll discuss your case with you free of charge.