Can you go to Canada if you have a DUI in California?

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April 21, 2017
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Driving or flying into Canada from California with a DUI on record

Having been convicted or even only arrested for a DUI in California can make you inadmissible to enter Canada. In order to be allowed to cross the border legally, one would have to obtain an official authorization from the Canadian government. One such way is by obtaining a Temporary Resident Permit which would allow a person with a DUI arrest or conviction in California to enter Canada multiple times and for a pre-determined period of time. Another possibility is to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation, which, once approved would allow you to enter Canada forever on as would any other individual who has never been arrested or convicted of a DUI.

California DUI laws

In the United States, drinking and driving is an offense in all 50 states, which could potentially lead to having a criminal record in the USA.  Each state has its own specific legislation and terminology in dealing deal with matters of drinking and driving offenses and convictions. In the state of California, an offense of driving under the influence of alcohol is described and sanctioned by the laws found in the California Vehicle Code. The Code describes alcohol related offenses as “Driving Under the Influence” (DUI). More specifically, section 23152 (a) indicates that it an offense to drink and drive, i.e. to be under the influence of alcohol while driving a vehicle and section 23152(b) criminalizes the driving of a vehicle when an individual consumed alcohol and has at least 0.08 percent or more, by weight, of alcohol in the blood.

Being convicted of an offense under either subsection A or B can be grounds for inadmissibility, and can therefore, stop you from being allowed to enter Canada. Furthermore, a person can be denied entry into Canada if he/she had only been arrested for DUI, regardless if their case is still only pending in court and for which no conviction has yet been pronounced.

What if my DUI was dismissed or I was only convicted of a Wet Reckless?

In certain cases when a person is arrested for DUI, and depending on the facts involved, a DUI charge can at times be dismissed, or be substituted by a reduced charge known as a Wet Reckless. This is essentially a conviction for Reckless Driving, though it will usually lead to penalties that are not as severe as those associated with a DUI conviction. Some wrongfully believe that being convicted of a Wet Reckless in the state of California instead of being convicted of DUI charge will prevent any issues when entering Canada. However, this is not the case. An equivalent to a Wet Reckless offense exists in Canada under the Canadian Criminal Code, meaning that a conviction for reckless driving can cause problems when trying to enter Canada just as much as a conviction for DUI would.

The state of California also has laws dealing with the possibility of having a conviction (for example a DUI or Wet Reckless) completely dismissed. A person who has complied with all of the court-ordered conditions, and who has successfully petitioned the court to have the DUI or the Wet Reckless dismissed, will see their conviction dismissed and the plea of “guilty” or “nolo contendere” changed to a plea of “not guilty”. Such a dismissal can, at times, render a once inadmissible person, admissible again to travel to Canada, however, multiple factors must be considered.

How can I enter Canada from California if I have a DUI?

As previously mentioned, a possible option for those who need to enter Canada and have either a DUI or Wet Reckless conviction on record, would be to apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP). Although discretionary in nature, once successfully obtained, the TRP would allow the permit holder to enter Canada for the amount of time specified on the permit and as often as required. If at least five years have passed since the completion of all conditions pertaining to the DUI or the Wet Reckless conviction (including any probation period imposed), an individual can also apply for what is known as Criminal Rehabilitation. If this application is approved, the individual will no longer be considered inadmissible, ad will be allowed to enter Canada legally from that moment on. The effect of the criminal rehabilitation is permanent, as long as no new offenses are committed,  meaning that applying for a temporary resident permit (TRP) will no longer be necessary afterwards in order to enter Canada.

If you have been convicted of a DUI in Los Angeles, Fresno, San Francisco Bay Area, Sonoma, San Diego, Modesto, Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose, Santa Barbara, Riverside, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Pasadena, Anaheim, Bakersfield or any other area of California, you may be inadmissible to enter Canada and can be denied entry at the border. We can help you determine the best course of action specific to your case through a free consultation with one of our experienced immigration lawyers. Call today 1-844-326-8410.