Canada with DUI

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Canadian immigration lawyer focused on Canada DUI entry from USA. We offer free comprehensive consultations (unlike most companies who demand a retainer before assessing your options).

Can You Cross the Canadian Border with a DUI California?

If you have ever been arrested or convicted of driving under the influence in California, you may be criminally inadmissible to Canada and denied entry at the border unless you have received special permission to enter. Even if the offense was reduced to a wet reckless, it still equates to a full DUI north of the border. Impaired driving is now a serious crime in Canada punishable by up to ten years in jail. Consequently, any foreign national with a record for drunk driving in California may be refused admittance by Canadian border authorities even if the offense occurred many years ago.

Official authorization to enter Canada with a DUI or wet reckless driving from California is available as a Temporary Resident Permit or Criminal Rehabilitation. A Canadian Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) can allow an American to cross the Canadian border with a drunk driving record from California for a fixed amount of time provided he or she has an acceptable reason for visiting. Multi-entry TRPs may be used for several trips to the country and can be valid for as long as three years. Criminal Rehabilitation can permanently overcome a person's DUI or wet reckless offense enabling them to visit Canada any time they wish going forward, but takes at least six months to obtain and requires full sentencing, including probation, to have been finished more than five years before applying.

Need to enter Canada but have a California DUI or wet reckless? Contact our legal team today for a free evaluation.

California DUI Laws

The main driving while impaired law in the state is found in the California Vehicle Code section 23152, sections (a) and (b). 23152(a) makes it a misdemeanor criminal offense to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and 23152(b) makes it a misdemeanor to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% of more. The punishment for both offenses are identical, and although an individual charged with drunk driving can only be punished for one of the two offenses they can be convicted of both. The second charge, or "b" count, opens a DUI case at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (California DMV) which will then suspend the motorist's driving privileges.

California has a "zero tolerance" law for underage motorists that prohibits drivers under 21 from operating a motor vehicle with any amount of alcohol in their system. Anyone below the legal drinking age found to be driving a car with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above 0.00% may be arrested and charged with an Under 21 DUI. Commercial drivers, or any person with a commercial driver's license, are considered impaired and can be charged with drunk driving with a BAC of 0.04% or greater. California's Implied Consent Law means that anyone operating a motor vehicle on a public roadway can be arrested and charged with DUI if they refuse to submit to a breath test, blood test, or urine test when law enforcement lawfully requests such chemical testing.

California DUI Penalties

The minimum terms for a first conviction misdemeanor DUI in California is a fine of around $1800, a 48-hour stint in jail or 90-day driver's license restriction, and completion of a three month long alcohol-treatment program that costs $500 (9 months if your BAC was 0.20% or more). Additionally, most first-time DUI offenders in the state are placed on probation for three years. A second DUI conviction in California within ten years of the first one can include a 10-day jail sentence, completion of an 18 or 30-month long second-offender alcohol-treatment program that costs ~$1800, and installation of an ignition interlock device or I.I.D. on every vehicle the person owns. Subsequent DUI convictions lead to significantly more jail time; 120 days imprisonment for a 3rd offense, and 180 days of incarceration for a 4th offense.

Flying to Canada with California DUI

Upon landing at a Canadian airport, visitors must clear Canadian customs which has full access to the FBI database containing the criminal history of all Americans. If a visitor presents their passport but is then found to be criminally inadmissible due to a past DUI or wet and reckless in California, he or she may be denied entrance and flown back home on the next available flight. If an American has been approved for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or Criminal Rehabilitation, however, their past conviction will not cause them problems when flying into Canadian cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, or Montreal.

Many people employed or freelancing in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles will eventually have the opportunity to work on a project being filmed in Canada, so it is very common for residents of California to apply for a TRP so that they can work on a shoot in Canada. It is also common for people who work in the technology industry in the Bay Area to need to visit their company's offices in Canada. For this reason, numerous US citizens, Green Card holders, and H-1B Visa holders (often citizens of India) from San Francisco and the San Jose / Silicon Valley region will request a TRP for business purposes each year.

Requesting special permission to travel to Canada with a DUI from California can require an FBI criminal record check, which in turn requires the person's fingerprints. Rather than "rolling" your fingerprints at a local police station and mailing them off to the Federal Government, most people in California now use a digital Live Scan service that enables them to obtain their FBI report faster. There are hundreds of Live Scan Fingerprint Vendors in the state, and a Government-approved list of California LiveScan locations can be found here.

California Wet Reckless

Under many circumstances, a prosecutor may allow a defendant facing a DUI charge in California to plea to a reduced charge of wet reckless driving. A misdemeanor wet reckless is covered by California Vehicle Code Section 23103 and 23103.5 VC and only exists as a plea reduction from driving under the influence (you cannot be charged with a wet reckless directly). Many first-time DUI offenders in California end up with a wet reckless conviction as prosecutors prefer it over other driving offenses such as dry reckless since it is a priorable offense. This means a wet reckless driving conviction would be treated the same as a California DUI if the defendant is ever charged with another DUI in the state. The punishment for a wet reckless driving conviction in California typically involves alcohol classes, court fines, and suspension of driver's license.

California DUI Expungements

It is often possible to expunge a California DUI conviction after completing all probation for the offense which is typically three years. A California wet reckless conviction can also be expunged in many cases once a person finishes their probation. An expungement is an after-the-fact dismissal of the case and essentially erases the conviction for many purposes. In California, expungement of criminal records is authorized by Penal Code 1203.4. Once a person has successfully petitioned the court to expunge the offense, they may be able to enter Canada provided they can satisfy border officials that the dismissal is equivalent to a Record Suspension under Canadian law. Consequently, the language of the final result and duration since all sentencing including probation was finished are both important.

Even after a conviction is expunged in California, it is still visible at the Canadian border so a Legal Opinion Letter from a Canadian immigration attorney equating the exact language of the dismissal to Canadian law is advisable. Not all expunged DUI convictions from California necessarily equate to a Record Suspension in Canada. If an offender's sentence, including non-reporting probation, ended less than five years ago, it can be argued that the offense should not be equivalent to a Canadian Record Suspension. Consequently, expunging your California DUI conviction does not guarantee admission into Canada as some border agents may not yet view it as a non-conviction.

Enter Canada with DUI California

Impaired driving is now a serious crime in Canada punishable by up to a decade in prison, so any such offense in a visitor's past can cause potential problems at the border. At the end of the day, entry into Canada is at the full discretion of border agents and the onus is always on the visitor to satisfy agents that he or she should be admitted. If a CA DUI arrest appears on your background report, expect Canadian border security to question you about the incident. Even if the charge was reduced to wet reckless driving, Canada's border can still treat it similar to a felony.

If you have a DUI or wet reckless offense from Los Angeles, San Diego, Bay Area (San Jose or San Francisco), Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Santa Ana, Riverside, Stockton, Chula Vista, Irvine, Fremont, San Bernardino, Modesto, Oxnard, Fontana, Huntington Beach, or any other area of California you could risk being denied entry to Canada. Even if the misdemeanor involved physical control while intoxicated, instead of driving under the influence of alcohol or marijuana, the Government of Canada can still consider it a serious crime. To learn more about crossing the Canadian Border with a DUI from California, read our full guide on how to go to Canada from USA if you have a DUI.

Our Canadian immigration lawyer can help you apply to overcome a DUI California so that you can travel north of the border without a refusal of entry. Interested in a free consultation? Phone our legal team now!

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