How Does a DUI in Canada Affect Border Crossing

For most people, crossing the border between Canada and the United States is a simple and easy experience. Before your upcoming trip across the border, you need to make sure you have a valid passport and any other necessary travel documents, such as a visa. It’s also suggested to make the necessary arrangements for your trip ahead of time, such as buying your airfare or train ticket, having your car serviced, and confirming your stay at a hotel or with family and friends.

However, crossing the border gets complicated when you have a DUI conviction. Canadians facing this problem may need to consult a DUI criminal lawyer in Toronto for more details before planning a trip in the neighbouring country.

Entering the U.S.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. generally won’t deny entry because of a single DUI conviction; however, you will be denied entry if you have multiple convictions or other associated offences. It’s possible you may deal with an agent who is particularly strict and won’t listen to your story. Additionally, they will prohibit entry into the country if you have committed a “Crime of Moral Turpitude,” which includes the violation of any law regarding controlled substances, except possession of a small amount of marijuana. This means that you may be denied if your DUI charge involved marijuana rather than, or as well as, alcohol.

Now that Canada has legalized marijuana—and the U.S. has not—you should not tell a U.S. customs agent that you have consumed or smoked marijuana, as that disclosure will deny you entry. On the other hand, hiding a conviction is not possible and ill-advised; the U.S. customs officers have access to Canada’s criminal databases. Even if you have a stopover in the United States, you will need a U.S. Entry Waiver. Unfortunately, getting a waiver can take as long as 8-14 months, which might hinder your travel plans. You should seek legal assistance, or go through an accredited firm, rather than trying to do this on your own.

Getting a record suspension—or pardon—will not prevent U.S. customs from seeing your record because it’s a foreign pardon from their perspective; nonetheless, it is still recommended to acquire one if you’re eligible. A pardon has many other benefits that can help with employment, child custody, travelling, and more within Canada!

Entering Canada

What do our southern neighbours have to face if they want to enter Canada with a DUI or DWI? Let’s find out!

If you’re travelling from the United States, it’s possible the agents at the Canadian border may or may not let individuals with DUIs on their record enter the country. As with the U.S., your entry into the country depends on the agent who serves you. However, it’s best not to count on them being nice to you, as the Canadian stereotype suggests.

Even if you’re not driving across the border, a DUI can affect you, particularly an older one. Years ago, if your DUI didn’t have any associated crimes and was 10 years old (as of completion of any sentence), Canada would ignore it. However, a 2018 crackdown changed the law and now, individuals with a DUI given before December 18th, 2018 will have to contact the right parties to find out if they gain entry or not. It’s always recommended to say the truth at the border, as Canadian customs officers will know about your record; hiding or denying that you have a DUI will lead to dire consequences. If you were acquitted, you may need to prove it at the border. Consulting with a lawyer in criminal law is recommended, so you’re made aware of the protocol and your rights.

Because of this, it’s a good idea to get a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). Like a U.S. Entry Waiver, this often takes months to obtain, but once you have it, the TRP is valid for as long as three years, assuming your application was completed properly. If you’re wondering about the price, a TRP costs $200 CAD to process it, and it won’t be refunded if your application is denied. On the plus side, the processing time does tend to be quicker than a waiver, generally three to four months. You need to provide a valid reason for visiting Canada, however, and your application may be denied if your reason is not found to be valid.

If your DUI is older and you completed any required penalties five years ago, you can apply for Criminal Rehabilitation, where you demonstrate that you have not done it or committed any other crime since and have paid your debt to society. Criminal Rehabilitation is permanent and will allow you to freely enter Canada. Getting an expungement may or may not allow you to enter Canada, but it should help you in getting a TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation.

Before Crossing the Border

Marijuana may be legal in Canada and some states, but it is not legal to take it across the border, even with a medical card. If you’re found out, you will be arrested for drug trafficking and issued a lifetime ban from entering Canada. You should leave it at home, and then, buy more from an authorized distributor in Canada.

You may think there is a loop hole in the border crossing system. If you try another point of entry, you may get a nicer officer who lets you through. Think again. Customs officers use a centralized system, which they submit denied admissions to, and it immediately updates. All ports of entry have access to the record and will know if you’re trying to cheat the system. Follow the law, learn the protocols, and acquire the right documents for entry.

If you’re in Toronto and plan to go to the U.S. with one or more DUI convictions on your record, you should contact a good DUI criminal lawyer in Toronto. Gambriani Law will help you figure out if you need a U.S. Entry Waiver, a pardon, or any other documents. We’re invested in your case and willing to go the extra mile as we investigate or represent you in court. Contact our firm to get started!

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