Can You Still Visit Canada with a DUI?

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Dec 23

Lewis & Laws

Can You Still Visit Canada with a DUI?

by Lewis & Laws

Can You Still Visit Canada with a DUI?

Because the Canadian border is so close to Seattle, many residents of the city routinely head to Canada for work and fun. An easy three-hour drive on I-5 will place Washington residents at the Canadian point of entry; however, some travelers may be shocked to find themselves detained at the border due to a Washington DUI conviction.

Even though you may have paid your fines and served your sentence in your Washington DUI case, Canada treats these situations very differently than the United States. The primary issue between a DUI in Washington and a DUI in Canada is that while a Washington DUI is considered a gross misdemeanor, in Canada driving under the influence is an indictable offense, with no distinction between felonies and misdemeanors.

Exceptions to Being Prevented Entry into Canada with a DUI

Those convicted of an indictable offense (Canadian) may be prevented entry into Canada, and, in some cases, even those who still have DUI charges pending may be excluded. The implications of a DUI conviction for those attempting to enter Canada are long-term—you could be stopped at the border up to ten years after being convicted on charges of DUI. There are two specific exceptions which may apply in your case if you have a DUI conviction and want to travel to Canada.

If at least five years have passed since you served your DUI sentence, you may be able to qualify to enter Canada through a program known as rehabilitation. You could also complete forms for a temporary resident permit which will require you to explain as to why you need to be allowed in the country. If you often enter Canada for work, you might consider this temporary resident permit which will allow you skirt the normal requirements for entering Canada following a DUI conviction.

Things to Know About Attempting to Enter Canada with a DUI

You may know that you cannot drive into Canada after having a DUI conviction but there are probably a few additional caveats you may not know about. First, you do not have to be the actual driver—even if you are a passenger in another person's car and you have a DUI conviction, you could still be denied access to Canada. Further, even if you have no intention of driving while in Canada—say you took a ferry to Canada and intend on only walking around the city of Victoria to see the sights—you could still be turned away from entering Canada.

No matter whether your DUI offense was classified as a felony or misdemeanor in Washington, you could be denied access. Even if you are entering Canada for a special event, or as a fan, guest, or official of another person, your DUI conviction could prohibit entry.

There are those who say they were allowed to cross the border despite a DUI conviction in the states, and others who say they were allowed into Canada once, twice, even three times, then turned away the next time. Border officers have total discretion to allow or deny entry, and while you stand a better chance of being allowed to enter the country if your DUI conviction is older than ten years, never count on entry.

What Not to Do if You are Stopped at the Border to Canada

If you are stopped at the border to Canada due to a prior DUI conviction, do not lie about your conviction. If you are caught misrepresenting your record, your chances of ever getting into Canada again will drop significantly. You could be banned on the spot from ever returning to the country, or perhaps for a specific length of time. If you think you might try a different border crossing on the same day after being denied admission, be aware that denied admissions are updated immediately in a central database. Even those who are with you in your vehicle could be denied entry into Canada, and could also face criminal charges should you try to run around Canadian laws regarding DUI convictions. 

Have you or someone you love been arrested and charged with a DUI crime? Contact the Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers at Lewis & Laws, PLLC.

If you have been charged with a DUI crime in Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Everett, or anywhere in the state of Washington, you may not be able to travel to Canada with a conviction on your record. Let the criminal defense lawyers at Lewis & Laws, PLLC fight aggressively for you and your future. Our lawyers have successfully defended clients in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form to get more information or to get a free case review!

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