One of the most immediate consequences of being charged with an impaired driving related offence (drunk driving, DUI or refusal charges) is that your license will be suspended in Nova Scotia for period of ninety days under the Motor Vehicle Act. This suspension occurs because of the mere fact of being charged with an impaired driving related offence. While this kind of a driving license suspension, without the benefit of a trial or hearing is draconian, the situation gets worse when you attempt to get your license back after the ninety day suspension is over.

Numerous persons who have had their license suspended because of an impaired driving or related criminal charge have gone to Service Nova Scotia after their ninety day suspension is up thinking they would get their license back, only to learn that they cannot get their license back unless they have participated in a designated Alcohol Rehabilitation Program which must be completed through Addiction Services at Capital Health in Halifax. When you call the number for the “Driving While Impaired or Interlock Program” at Capital Health in Halifax (902-424-8866, option # 3) you will get an answering machine prompting you to leave your name and telephone number. Recently people who have been applying to participate in the Alcohol Rehabilitation Program have been told that they could only get into the program three or four months down the road. The net effect is that the ninety day license suspension becomes a suspension of six months or longer because of the waiting list for the Alcohol Rehabilitation Program. This is a very severe additional punishment for someone who has not yet been convicted of any offence and is clearly not the intention of section 279A of the Motor Vehicle Act.

At Singleton & Associates when a client is facing an impaired driving related criminal offence, we advise that they should immediately apply to participate in the Alcohol Rehabilitation Program given the wait list at Addiction Services. In other words, you make the application at the beginning of the ninety day license suspension.

The same problem awaits anyone who has been convicted of impaired driving or a related criminal offence and receives a one year driving suspension under the Criminal Code when they go to Service Nova Scotia to attempt to get their license back. If they have not already completed the Alcohol Rehabilitation Program through Addiction Services at Capital Health they will be told that they have to apply to the program and complete it before they can get their license back. They have to participate in the same program and the wait list is three months or longer, which results in the driving suspension of one year imposed by the Court becoming a driving suspension of fifteen months or longer. Again, our advice is to make your application to participate in the Alcohol Rehabilitation Program at the beginning of your suspension.

One would think, in the interest of fairness, that the Alcohol Rehabilitation Program required by the Registry of Motor Vehicles would be readily available especially when every applicant who does the course is paying a fee of hundred of dollars to fund the program. Setting up such a rehabilitation program in a manner which has the effect of extending the license suspension is unjust and should not be tolerated in a democracy which cherishes the rule of law. Yet it is unlikely that anything will be done to correct this injustice, given the existence of well financed lobby groups such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).