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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).

Does a DUI Reduced to Reckless Driving Affect Entry to Canada?

If it is a person's first offense, and there was no motor vehicle accident or dangerous driving involved, it is common in many states for a DUI or DWI to get reduced to a lesser charge such as reckless driving (including wet reckless and dry reckless), negligent driving in the first or second degree, dangerous driving, or reckless endangerment. While reckless driving is a significant reduction from impaired driving, it is still typically a more serious offense than careless driving, improper driving, or driving without due care and attention, and can render an individual excludable from Canada.

Depending on the exact wording, a misdemeanor reckless driving charge in the United States may be equivalent to the charge of "dangerous operation of a motor vehicle" in Canada. This hybrid infraction, found in section 249(1)(a) of the Canadian Criminal Code, may be an indictable offense punishable by up to ten years imprisonment, and as a result, any foreign conviction that equates to this crime can render a person inadmissible to Canada for life. In December 2018, Canada passed new impaired driving laws and as a result crimes such as reckless driving, hit and run, flight from a police officer, and operating with a suspended license are now considered serious criminality. Consequently, an American with a past offense that equates to one of these crimes may no longer be eligible for automatic Deemed Rehabilitation after ten years and could be at risk of a border refusal forever unless they have successfully attained special permission to enter the country.

It is possible to enter Canada with a reckless driving conviction by obtaining a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or Criminal Rehabilitation. A TRP waiver can overcome inadmissibility due to a reckless driving conviction for a limited time (maximum duration of 36 months) provided an American has a valid reason for visiting Canada. Criminal Rehabilitation is a permanent fix, but all sentencing must have been completed at least five years ago including probation and loss of driving privileges. Offenses that occurred before the laws changed in Canada can be grandfathered in, so it may still be possible to cross the border with a single reckless driving offense from more than ten years ago but a Canadian immigration lawyer should always be consulted. Reckless driving incidents that happened after Canada strengthened their laws, however, can render an American criminally inadmissible forever unless they apply for Criminal Rehabilitation.

Depending on the exact nature of an individual's situation, in rare occasions, it could potentially be shown that the circumstances which resulted in a person's charge are not the equivalent to the essential ingredients of the offense in Canada. The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled that Canada's dangerous operation of a motor vehicle statute is narrower than a reckless driving statute in USA, for example, meaning it may be possible, albeit unlikely, for a reckless driving charge from the United States not to exclude a person from entering Canada. If the original arrest was for a DUI, however, there is almost zero chance a US citizen will be able to successfully argue their reckless driving conviction should not equate to a potentially serious crime in Canada. This being said, if a DWI is reduced to a traffic violation such as an unsafe start or obstructing a roadway, it may be achievable for the person to travel to Canada without a Temporary Resident Permit or Rehabilitation, but they should always consult with a Canadian immigration lawyer ahead of time.

Wet Reckless
A skilled drunk driving defense attorney may help secure a reduced charge with a reduced sentence for a first-time DUI offender. In states such as California, the first level of DUI reduction that is generally offered by the prosecution is a "wet reckless" or "wet and reckless" driving. While a wet reckless can be a lucrative plea bargain depending on a drunk driver's case, it still implies that the individual was involved in an alcohol or drug-related driving offense. Admissibility to Canada is determined by the Canadian equivalent of an infraction, and the language of the wet reckless vehicle code may cause a person to be considered criminally inadmissible to Canada since any indictment related to driving under the influence of alcohol may render a person inadmissible for entry according to Canadian immigration law. For this reason, alcohol-related reckless driving (wet reckless) arrests and convictions can prohibit entry into Canada.

Dry Reckless
A "dry reckless" is a misdemeanor driving offense often defined as driving with a flagrant disregard for people or property, and the language of this vehicle code generally does not mention alcohol. The equivalent offense in Canada can often be tried on an indictment, however, which means it is still a serious enough crime to render an American criminally inadmissible to Canada and put them at risk of a border denial. For this reason, a person may still be turned away at the Canadian border with a DUI plead down to dry reckless. Likewise, an individual charged with reckless driving due to a car accident or street racing incident can also have substantial trouble visiting Canada, but an attorney should always be consulted about your specific case. Even if alcohol was not involved, a reckless driving conviction can cause an American to be denied entry at a Canadian airport or land border crossing since it is potentially a serious crime in the country.

Excessive speeding is not a federal crime in Canada unless it is likely to endanger others. Consequently, basic speeding offenses in the US will ordinarily not cause complications at the Canadian border unless for some reason they equate to dangerous operation or another crime that could be classified as severe. For example: a simple speeding ticket for going 15 mph over the speed limit may not be an issue when traveling to Canada, but a reckless driving conviction related to speeding (no alcohol involved) may cause a person to be denied entry. If an American was convicted of reckless driving, dangerous driving, careless driving, reckless operation, negligent driving, or another misdemeanor due to a motor-vehicle accident or speeding incident, they will often be considered criminally inadmissible to Canada even if the original charge was reckless driving not drunk driving. Despite a reckless driving incident involving speed not intoxication, if the statute contains mention of behavior "likely to endanger" Canada can consider it equivalent to dangerous operation in their country which is now a serious crime.

Reckless Operation

In some states, the term reckless operation of a motor vehicle is used instead of reckless driving. This is because an offender could technically be operating a motorized vehicle without actually driving it. For example: an Ohio OVI charge is frequently reduced to reckless operation if a person has no prior criminal history. Similar to a reckless driving conviction, a misdemeanor for reckless operation can be considered serious criminality by Canada.

If you want to discuss the ramifications your DUI reduced to a reckless driving charge could possibly have on your admissibility to Canada, call us today or fill out our free assessment form. Even if a US citizen plans to drive to Alaska and would only be quickly passing through the country, a reckless conviction can still be problematic at the border. Our Canadian immigration law firm offers free consultations, and we will typically contact you within 24 hours to discuss your precise situation.

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