Can You Travel with a DUI From Canada?

Farid Zamani
Farid Zamani
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Impaired driving is a criminal offence in Canada that carries serious penalties if you’re convicted, even if it’s your first offence. While any criminal conviction affects your ability to travel internationally, there is a great deal of variability in how it affects it. Let’s address some of the most common questions about travelling after being convicted of driving under the influence impaired (DUI).

Can I travel to the United States with a DUI?

A single impaired driving offence is not grounds to deny you entry to the United States. However, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol CBP agents can deny entry to anyone they believe presents a threat to the United States or its citizens; they don’t legally need to have evidence to turn someone away. Of course, you can appeal their decision, but you can’t do it while you’re sitting at a border crossing point; being prepared for this possibility is much better than dealing with a major interruption of your travel plans.

If you have multiple offences or your conviction involved another offence, crossing the border into America is more complicated. You can be denied entry if you’ve been convicted of:

  • Crimes involving moral turpitude, such as assault, human trafficking, fraud, money laundering, and prostitution. This category of crimes is not clearly defined, meaning that many other acts could be considered to involve moral turpitude.
  • Activities that are considered “controlled substance violations” under the laws of any other country or any U.S. state. This also applies to immediate family members who have benefitted financially from the illicit activity if they knew where the money came from.
  • Having been convicted of two or more crimes for which the total sentence was at least five years.

Be prepared before entering the United States if you have multiple DUIs or other convictions attached, such as causing bodily harm to another person, failing to remain at the scene of an accident, resisting arrest, or street racing. Consulting with a DUI lawyer in Toronto is the best way to check if your travel plans can go ahead.

Can I travel outside the U.S. and Canada?

Some countries ask for the details of your criminal record when you apply for entry, and others don’t. Still, others are only concerned about specific types of crimes. For example, the United Arab Emirates doesn’t specifically bar someone with a DUI from entering the country. Still, it’s a country with very conservative social values, and their dim view of alcohol consumption could mean that travellers with drinking-related convictions will be turned back. Australia takes DUI convictions very seriously but may still permit someone to enter the country if they have their court documentation with them and they weren’t in jail for more than 12 months.

The onus is on the traveller to check the requirements for the country they’re planning to travel to. Given that the rules can change rapidly, it’s better to verify them when you first plan your trip and also just before leaving for your trip.

What if I have to go through another country on my way to my destination?

If you’re transiting through another country, you may have to go through their immigration process, which means you will have to meet their immigration requirements. However, you may be able to remain in the airport “in transit,” meaning that you don’t go through a customs and immigration check. If that’s the case, the requirements for entering the country won’t apply to you.

This is important not only from a criminal record standpoint but from an infectious disease one as well: you’ll be expected to comply with the COVID requirements for the country you’re travelling through if you’re passing through immigration, but not if you remain in the airport’s “in transit” area.

Again, the traveller is responsible for figuring this out. The carrier (airline, rail line, bus company) you’re travelling with can provide you with this information, but double-check with your booking agent or the airport you’re travelling through.

What if I get a DUI on the other side of the Canada/U.S. border?

If you are a citizen or legal resident of Canada, getting a DUI in the United States won’t prevent you from re-entering Canada, and your conviction won’t transfer to your Canadian criminal record. However, the DUI could prevent you from getting into the United States again. The same thing applies to Americans convicted of impaired driving in Canada, although the entry criteria for Canada are much stricter for travellers with an impaired driving conviction.

How do I prepare for international travel with a DUI?

  1. Do your research. What are the restrictions in your destination country? What must you do before your trip if you have an impaired driving conviction?
  2. If your research shows that you might be able to enter a country with the court documents related to your conviction, take them with you when you travel, and be prepared to discuss them.
  3. Be patient and transparent when you present yourself at the border. Lying to an immigration official or losing your temper will ruin your trip and may disqualify you from travelling to that country in the future. If you’re ultimately denied entry, accept the decision. Do not attempt to cross at another booth or another point of entry.
  4. If you discover that you can’t complete your travel, find out if there’s a way to resolve the problem, either by applying for a visa waiver, waiting for a few years, or applying for a record suspension (pardon). A DUI lawyer in Toronto can help you with this.

Research and preparation are key to ensuring that your border-crossing experience is smooth and painless. However, the best thing you can do is to avoid getting convicted in the first place. The time to call a criminal lawyer in Toronto is before you go to court.

The criminal defence lawyers at Zamani Law have defended many people charged with impaired driving offences. They have built a long track record of success with their expertise, commitment, and deep knowledge of the applicable laws. They will examine all aspects of your case, including the circumstances of your arrest and any potential violations of your rights, including but not limited to:

  • Your right to protection against unreasonable searches and seizures
  • Faulty breathalyzers or incorrect procedures in obtaining your breath sample
  • Any possible violation of your Charter Rights during the investigation and arrest
  • Your right to consult with an attorney as soon as possible and to speak to that lawyer in private

Contact Zamani Law now for a free, no-obligation consultation on any impaired driving charge.

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