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 Go to Canada If You Have a Civil DUI?

Many US states have a civil license suspension law for impaired driving which is entirely different from the criminal charge of driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI). Depending on the exact circumstances, if a person is arrested for suspicion of drunk driving but did not cause an accident and has no previous criminal history, they might end up with a civil license suspension and not a criminal record since it is their first offense. Examples of civil violations for impaired driving include Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) in New York State, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in New Jersey, and Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) in Wisconsin.

A non-criminal intoxicated driving offense is often referred to as a "DUI violation" or "DUI infraction" as opposed to a "DUI conviction". For the purposes of Canadian immigration, the equivalent offense north of the border is typically still a full-blown DUI conviction since Canada does not have a civil penalty for driving impaired or operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. Consequently, a civil DUI such as a DWAI can still render an American ineligible to go to Canada unless they overcome their criminal inadmissibility.

An American with a civil infraction for driving after drinking can obtain special permission to enter Canada by applying for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or Criminal Rehabilitation (CR). A TRP can be requested for up to three years, but requires an applicant to have a valid reason for travel. CR is a permanent fix and can be obtained for leisure purposes, but is only available to Americans once it has been at least five years since the end of their license suspension and payment of any fines. Rehabilitation also takes substantially longer to acquire than a TRP, so some people with a trip already booked will apply for both in order to cross the border quickly while also fixing the issue forever.

Lost your driving privileges due to an impaired driving incident? Need to visit Canada? Contact our team today for a free consultation!

I Don't Have a Criminal Record, Why Am I Banned From Canada?

Many Americans are shocked to learn they could be denied entry at the Canadian border due to their drinking and driving violation since it was not considered criminal. After being told by their DUI defense lawyer that a plea agreement is for a "traffic ticket" not a criminal offense, many people feel like they beat their case and never have to worry about it again. While a DWAI, OWI, or other civil DUI or DWI offense is certainly not a bad outcome for a drunk driving arrest, when it comes to entering Canada it is not much different from a regular misdemeanor DUI conviction and can cause border authorities to stop a person and send them back home.

Most Americans are found inadmissible to Canada on ground's of Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) section 36(1)(b)(c) and 36(2)(b)(c). IRPA 36(1) covers serious criminality, such as impaired driving offenses that occurred after December 18th 2018, and IRPA 36(1)(b) is applicable to visitors who have "been convicted of an offense outside Canada" such as a recent DUI conviction. IRPA 36(2) covers standard criminality, such as impaired driving offenses that occurred before December 18th 2018, and IRPA 36(2)(b) is applicable to visitors who have "been convicted outside Canada of an offense" such as an old DUI conviction. Offenses that are not criminal convictions are also included in part "c" of each section, however, which is why civil violations also render people inadmissible to Canada. IRPA 36(1)(c) is applicable to visitors who have committed "an act outside Canada that is an offense in the place where it was committed and that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an offense under an Act of Parliament punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of at least 10 years" such as a recent OWI, DWAI, or civil DWI or DUI infraction.

IRPA 36(2)(c) is applicable to visitors who have committed "an act outside Canada that is an offense in the place where it was committed and that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offense under an Act of Parliament" such as an older traffic offense for intoxicated driving that occurred before December 2018 which is when Canada changed their DUI laws. This is why a Wisconsin OWI violation, New York DWAI violation, New Jersey DWI ticket, or other non-criminal civil infraction for driving under the influence can still render an American criminal inadmissible to Canada according to their border rules.

There has been some speculation on various Canada immigration and travel forums online that a civil DWI is not actually visible to officials at the Canadian border. A few people have publicly stated this belief, claiming its validity because the violation is held by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and not the State Police, and therefore is not picked up by the FBI criminal database. Since the Canadian border has access to the FBI database, they surmise that Canada's border officials consequently cannot see any non-criminal drunk driving violations when a foreign national from the US crosses the border. Much of this information is categorically incorrect, and attempting to enter Canada with a civil DUI and no Temporary Resident Permit or Rehabilitation simply because of what some strangers on the Internet claim does not seem like an intelligent idea.

To begin with, this strategy could easily go horribly wrong if the border agent asks if you have ever been arrested before. Lying to border guards can have major consequences, and if CBSA officials see the infraction in their computer system, and you did not disclose it when asked, you may be denied entrance or worse. Providing false information to border agents about a possible immigration violation can even cause a person to be barred from the country for several years, and border guards are experts at spotting liars. At the end of the day, a civil DUI can still render a person criminally inadmissible to Canada whether or not the border will be aware of it, so unless you want to risk being denied entry into Canada you should consider planning ahead and applying for a Temporary Resident Permit or Criminal Rehabilitation. Do not forget, even without a criminal conviction an arrest for suspicion of driving impaired typically shows up on an FBI report.

More than a dozen US States including New York share their DMV data with the Government of Canada, so the Canadian border can instantly flag visitors with a past DWAI, DWI, OWI, or other civil DUI infraction regardless of what appears on their FBI background check. Implied consent violations for refusing a breathalyzer, as well as civil offenses for driving with a suspended license or sleeping in a car while drunk can also cause problems for American visitors at the Canadian border.

Have a civil suspension for intoxicated driving and want to go to Canada? Phone us now for a free consultation.

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