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 Travel to Canada with DWAI?

DWAI, short for driving while ability impaired, is considered a lower-level offense than DWI or DUI but is treated the exact same under Canadian immigration law. For this reason, anyone who has a DWAI may be criminally inadmissible to Canada and denied entry at the border unless he or she has been issued special permission. There are two ways to receive permission from the Canadian Government to cross the border with a New York or Colorado DWAI. A Canada Temporary Resident Permit enables a person to overcome their criminal inadmissibility on a short term basis, while Criminal Rehabilitation allows someone to fix the problem permanently. A Temporary Resident Permit, also called a Canada TRP, can be good for up to 3 years (several entries) or for as little as one day (single entry). Criminal Rehabilitation (CR) can permit an individual with a DWAI to travel to Canada for the rest of their life, but is only available to individuals who have completed all sentencing (including probation) more than five years ago.

If you have a DWAI and wish to enter Canada, phone our team now for a free extensive consultation with a Canadian immigration law firm.

It is fairly common for a first-offense impaired driving charge in Colorado or New York state to be pled down to a DWAI. Even though a DWAI is a misdemeanor in Colorado and a traffic violation in New York (not a criminal conviction), they are both visible to Canadian border officials and both equate to a full DUI in Canada which is a serious crime. As of December 2018, impaired driving is considered serious criminality under Canadian law and such an offense can now be punished by up to ten years imprisonment. Consequently, even a single DWAI infraction from long ago can be an excludable offense and result in an American being turned away while attempting to enter Canada.

New York DWAI

In New York state, anyone operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above 0.08 may be charged with driving while intoxicated or DWI. Anyone operating a motor vehicle while impaired but with a blood alcohol content (BAC) between 0.05 and 0.08 may be charged with driving while ability impaired. Even though a first-time DWAI conviction is not criminal in New York, the Canadian equivalent is still a hybrid offense with the potential to be indictable, and it can therefore render a person ineligible to cross the border without a Canada TRP or CR. An infraction and not a crime, a NY DWAI is a violation according to New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) 1192.1. A first offense DWAI in New York often involves a fine of $500 - $2000, as well as a license suspension for 90 days.

Colorado DWAI

In the state of Colorado, if a driver is impaired "to the slightest degree" and a blood or breath test result is .05% to .08% they will likely get a DWAI charge. If the breathalyzer result is above .08 the driver will frequently get a full blown DUI. In Colorado, if a person's BAC was below 0.08% and there is zero indication of drug use, the DMV will typically not revoke their driver's license. A DWAI is defined in Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) 42-4-130(1), and penalties for subsequent convictions can include up to 180 days imprisonment.

If you have a D.W.A.I or driving while ability impaired violation on your record, crossing the Canadian border can result in you being denied entry. Canada has full access to American criminal and motor vehicle databases, and they can often see your DWAI arrest as soon as it happens. Even if you are awaiting trial and have not yet received a DWAI violation, you may not be permitted entry into Canada after the initial arrest occurs unless you have special permission or can prove a favorable court ruling.

Deemed Rehabilitation

Before December 2018, if you had a single DWAI in New York state or Colorado you could eventually be considered "deemed rehabilitated" under Canadian law and allowed back into the country after ten years without requiring a TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation in order to avoid a potential refusal at the border. The law changed in December 2018, however, and now intoxicated driving is considered too serious a crime to be eligible for automatic Deemed Rehabilitation. If an American with a single DWAI and no other criminal convictions or impaired driving violations became admissible to Canada via Deemed Rehabilitation before December 18th, 2018 (when the law changed), however, they may still be permitted entry into the country through grandfathering but should consult with a Canadian immigration law before trying to cross the border. Please note: automatic rehabilitation is based on the date of full completion of all sentencing related to the DWAI (such as payment of any fines and participation in any court-mandated classes or programs), not the date of the actual incident.

If you have a DWAI or other alcohol-related driving infringement and need to go to Canada, contact our team today.

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