Canada Makes It Tougher to Visit With a DUI Conviction

By Jonathan Blecher on February 6, 2020

Within the past year or so the Canadian Parliament passed Bill C-46. It amends the criminal code to create more severe consequences for DUI/alcohol. It further created specific language and offenses for driving under the influence of drugs. The bill also grants police greater powers to test drivers for impairment and increases the maximum penalty for a DUI from 5 to 10 years.

For immigration purposes, DUIs will be considered “serious criminality”, creating an obstacle for visitors or immigrants to Canada. U.S. citizens, foreign nationals and temporary residents who could previously visit Canada may now be denied entry. Permanent residents may even face deportation. That’s another reason why it’s so important to win your DUI case or getting the charges reduced to a lesser offense such as reckless or careless driving and seek a record sealing or expungement.

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 this 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 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. 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.

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 a DWI is reduced to a traffic violation such as an unsafe start or obstructing a roadway, it may also 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.

If you are facing DUI charges in Miami, I encourage you to contact my firm to schedule a free case evaluation. I would be happy to review your case and help you better understand what to expect considering your circumstances.

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