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 I Get into Canada with a DUI Expungement?

Most alcohol-related driving offenses fall under the vehicle code for a given state (example: California Vehicle Code, Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, etc). When determining admissibility, Canada immigration officials must identify the equivalent offense in the Canadian Criminal Code. This is done by examining the exact wording of the offense, which can vary from state to state, and then determining the corresponding Canadian infraction. When you expunge a DUI or wet reckless conviction, the verdict essentially changes to "not a conviction, deemed to have never occurred." Since the exact language and circumstances can differ, for the purposes of Canadian immigration some expunged DUIs equate to a non-conviction in Canada while other expunged convictions can still render an American inadmissible to Canada.

If a person successfully petitioned the state to expunge their impaired driving conviction, and it now equates to "no conviction" in Canada, any prior impediments that existed pursuant to the IRPA may be removed. In this situation, the Canadian border may treat the expunged offense like it is not a conviction allowing the individual to potentially enter Canada without any problems. On the other hand, if the expungement still equates to a conviction in Canada, which can be the case with some expungements from some US states, the person may still require a Temporary Resident Permit or Criminal Rehabilitation in order to avoid being denied entry at the Canadian border. At the end of the day, expunged DUI convictions are still visible at Canada's border via FBI NCIC database and a visitor must be able to prove that they are admissible under Canadian law if challenged.

Wondering if your expunged conviction renders you inadmissible to Canada? Phone us today for a free consultation.

The onus is always on the traveler to prove his or her admissibility to Canada. Consequently, if you have an expunged DUI or wet reckless conviction, you may need to prove that the offense, given the precise language of the final outcome, is not considered a conviction under Canadian law. Even if the expungement equates to "no conviction" in Canada, it is important for Americans entering Canada with an expunged DUI to have proof that it was successfully abolished as border agents might require evidence of the final result. Since criminal database sharing between the two countries is not always perfectly up to date, and mistakes do happen, it may be possible for an immigration officer to see a person's DUI conviction and not their more recent expungement (especially if the conviction was expunged very recently). The exact language of the expungement will also not be visible to border officers through National Crime Information Center criminal database sharing.

Many American citizens going to Canada with an impaired driving expungement get a Canadian immigration attorney to write up a professional Legal Opinion Letter to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) explaining the situation in detail. The letter describes in legal terms the original conviction, the subsequent expungement (including the specific language used in that state), and why there is consequently no longer a basis to deny the individual entry to Canada. Please note: if a conviction "dropped off" or was destroyed or sealed, this is different than an expungement or pardon and the offense likely still counts as a conviction when equated to Canadian law. Unless border agents are absolutely convinced that a misdemeanor conviction from the United States now equates to a Record Suspension in Canada, they may decide to refuse entry to the traveler.

It is a privilege to be allowed to enter a foreign country and the responsibility always falls on the visitor to be able to justify his or her admission at the border. A Legal Opinion Letter from an experienced lawyer combined with the proper supporting documents can help Americans with an expunged conviction in certain jurisdictions to successfully gain entry to Canada. Remember, in some cases, an expunged DUI can still render an American criminally inadmissible to Canada and can lead to a border denial. Terminology related to dismissing or erasing a criminal record can vary significantly from state to state. In jurisdictions such as California, Indiana, Kentucky, or Pennsylvania, destroying a record is typically referred to as an expungement. In Washington State, certain charges and convictions can be "vacated". In Arizona, it may be possible to have an offense "set aside". In other parts of the country, it may be possible to request an official pardon or dismissal.

The ability to request an expungement can depend a lot on the US state and type of offense. In many areas of USA, for example, it is not possible to expunge a DUI or DWI. While some states such as California usually allow a person to expunge a misdemeanor or felony conviction that involved drunk driving as soon as probation is complete, other states such as Indiana only allow the expungement of DUI charges or arrest records not actual convictions. In Pennsylvania, it is only possible to expunge a DUI record if the court allows the offending party to participate in ARD.

The language of the final outcome after expunging, vacating, or setting aside a criminal charge or conviction can be extremely important when determining if an American is allowed to enter Canada. Just because a person has been pardoned locally does not mean the Government of Canada will let them cross the border! With so much at stake, many people prefer to have a professional explain their admissibility so they do not lose sleep at night worrying that they will not be able to justify their admittance to immigration officials when under pressure. Think a letter of admissibility might help you enter Canada with an expunged DUI? Phone us today for a free assessment of your situation.

Entering Canada with a California DUI Expungement

In California, it is often possible to request a Record Clearance pursuant to Section 1203.4 PC in order to expunge a DUI or wet reckless driving conviction. If the Record Clearance is granted and an Order of Expungement issued, a California wet reckless or DUI may no longer equate to a conviction under Canadian law but is still visible at the Canadian border. If a person's sentence including non-reporting probation was completed less than five years ago, there is a risk Canadian border authorities will not consider the California expungement equivalent to a Record Suspension in Canada. In such a case, applying for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) may be advisable if an American with a California DUI expungement has an important trip to Canada planned. While expunging a DUI in California via PC 1203.4 can make entry into Canada much easier, it does not hide the original offense from Canadian border officials and the incident can still cause potential problems when flying to Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, or other cities in the country. Depending on the exact language of the dismissal, a California DUI conviction that has been expunged may equate favorably to Canadian law even if it cannot be equated to a Record Suspension in Canada.

Vacated Convictions in Washington State

In the state of Washington, the term "vacated" is often used instead of expunged. Under Washington law, certain misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor convictions can be vacated. While the state does not permit vacation of misdemeanor or felony driving under the influence or physical control convictions, it may be possible to vacate an impaired driving offense that was reduced to a lesser charge such as reckless driving or negligent driving if it has been more than ten years. The state's House Bill 1041, called the New Hope Act, can also make it easier for a person to vacate certain misdemeanors that were not drunk driving related. Vacated conviction in Washington state may equate to a non-conviction according to Canadian law, but an immigration attorney should always be consulted before attempting to cross the border.

Does Canada Know About My Expunged DUI?

Many US citizens interested in traveling north of the border are surprised to learn that Canadian border patrol can still flag a visitor due to a misdemeanor or felony conviction that has been successfully expunged. Such an offense may no longer be visible to a potential employer, but the Government of Canada gets their information straight from the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) which still shows an arrest record or criminal conviction even after an expungement. Consequently, an American who had a wet reckless or DUI expunged in California after completion of probation, a DUI charge expunged in Pennsylvania after finishing the ARD Program, or a DUI conviction set aside in Arizona according to ARS 13-907, may still be questioned about it upon arrival at a Canadian airport or land border crossing.

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