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).

Is a DUI a Criminal Record in Canada?

Impaired driving is a serious crime in Canada that can result in a person being sentenced to as long as ten years in prison. Consequently, Canadian border officials not only consider a DUI to be a criminal record, they can now view such a conviction similar to a felony. For this reason, an American traveler that has a past DUI or other misdemeanor related to intoxicated driving in the United States may be classified as inadmissible by Canada and denied entry at the border. Even traffic violations for driving under the influence of alcohol, such as DWAI in New York or OWI in Wisconsin, can be treated as a criminal record by the Canadian Government resulting in a border refusal. A misdemeanor conviction for reckless driving, dangerous driving, or driving while suspended is also considered a potentially serious criminal record by Canada.

If an American has a criminal record for driving under the influence or driving while impaired, he or she can cross the border by obtaining special entry permission from the Government of Canada. Permission to visit Canada with a DUI record is available as Criminal Rehabilitation, which is a permanent solution, or a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), which is a short-term waiver. Applying for Canadian Rehabilitation or a TRP involves a massive amount of tedious paperwork, so many US citizens simply avoid Canada if they have a DUI record. If a foreign national only has a single DUI or DWI from more than a decade ago, the Canadian Government may be willing to overlook their old criminal record and consider them "deemed rehabilitated" by the passage of time. The burden of proof is on the visitor, however, so a qualified immigration lawyer should be consulted regarding evidence of admissibility.

Have a criminal record for DUI and want to enter Canada? Contact our Canadian immigration law firm today for a free consultation!

Why Does Canada Consider a DUI to Be a Criminal Record?

In the United States, a crime is either a misdemeanor or a felony. Most US DUI convictions are only misdemeanors unless the offense involved aggravating factors such as a car accident, high rate of speed, or a child in the vehicle. If the offender had prior drunk driving arrests they might get charged with a felony, but even still they will often end up with a misdemeanor conviction if they have a good attorney. In some areas of the USA, driving under the influence is frequently handled as a civil infraction instead of a criminal offense. For example, most DWIs in New Jersey are considered a civil driving violation and not a criminal conviction. Nonetheless, according to Canadian immigration law such an offense can be equated to an adult criminal record.

North of the border, a serious crime is considered an indictable offense, which is similar to a USA felony, and a non-serious crime is called a summary offense, which is similar to a USA misdemeanor. A DUI in Canada is a hybrid offense, which means it could result in a summary charge but it could also be pursued as indictable. Since it is possible for drunk driving to be an indictable offense, Canada's border rules treat a DUI as a serious crime. Consequently, visitors with any equivalent violation or conviction in their past may be considered inadmissible to the country because of their criminal record. This means a single DUI, DWI, OVI, OWI, DWAI, wet reckless driving, or other criminal conviction for drunk operation of a motor vehicle can be a problem when crossing the border into Canada even if it happened a long time ago. This is why thousands of American citizens are refused admittance at the Canadian border each year due to a criminal history for driving while impaired.

How Does Canada Know About My DUI Record?

The US Government shares a copy of their criminal records with the Canadian Government. This allows border agents at Canadian airports and land border crossings to instantly flag a visitor that has a criminal record for drinking and driving in the United States. When a person is arrested or charged with driving impaired, a criminal record is created which ends up in the FBI National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database. This crime-related information is then shared with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or RCMP, which is Canada's national police force. The RCMP then provide these criminal records to the Canada Border Services Agency or CBSA, who can add it to their frontline lookouts system. This is how Canadian border agents know you have a DUI without even asking.

Does a DUI Arrest Count as a Criminal Record in Canada?

If a foreign citizen arrives at the Canadian border with a DUI arrest record, border security may treat the offense as under indictment and turn the person away. Even though an individual is normally considered innocent unless found guilty in court, this assumption of innocence does not hold true at the Canadian border. Consequently, an American with a DUI arrest or charge on their criminal record should either travel with proof of a favorable outcome, such as being found not guilty or all charges being dropped or dismissed, or should obtain a Temporary Resident Permit.

Does an Expunged DUI Count as a Criminal Record in Canada?

In some jurisdictions, it is possible to have a DUI conviction expunged after a period of time. For example, in California a misdemeanor DUI or wet reckless conviction can typically be expunged upon completion of probation which is usually three years. Even though a DUI expungement does not typically count as a criminal record in the US state it occurred, the record is retained by the FBI indefinitely and the offense will consequently still be visible at Canada's border. This being said, it many cases it may be possible to equate a DUI expungement in the USA to a Record Suspension in Canada, but you should always consult a professional about your precise situation. Likewise, a criminal record that has been "vacated" or "set aside" will often still be visible to CBSA authorities but may no longer render a foreigner inadmissible to Canada on grounds of criminality.

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