Drunk driving convictions will prevent you from entering Canada

If you are thinking of traveling to Canada with a drunk driving conviction on your record, you will want to re-think your travel plans. Canadian Customs will deny you entry into Canada and you will be turned back around right at the border.

According to the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (current to March 10, 2010), under Division 4 governing Inadmissibility: "A foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of criminality for...committing an act outside Canada that is an offense in the place where it was committed and that, if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offense under an Act of Parliament". (Paragraph 36(2)(c); Emphasis added; See http://laws.justic.gc.ca/PDF/Statute/I/I02.5.pdf for the complete Act).

According to the Canadian Criminal Code, Part VIII, Section 253(1): "Every one commits an offence who operates a motor vehicle...or has the care or control of a motor vehicle...whether it is in motion or not, (a) while the person's ability to operate the vehicle...is impaired by alcohol or a drug; or (b) having consumed alcohol in such a quantity that the concentration in the person's blood exceeds eighty milligrams of alcohol in one hundred milliliters of blood." The penalties are outlined in Section 255: "Every one who commits an offence under section 253...is guilty of an indictable offence..." (Paragraph (1); Emphasis added; See http:// laws.justice.gc.ca/PDF/Statute/C/C-46.pdf for the complete Code).

While many states make the distinction between a first, second, or third drunk driving convictions, Canada considers even a first offense drunk driving conviction an "indictable" offense. Because of this severe categorization, anyone with a drunk driving conviction, even a first offense, will be prevented from entering Canada. An interesting point about the Canadian Criminal Code is that murder, manslaughter and infanticide are listed in the same Part as the drunk driving laws (Part VIII, Sections 229 - 248).

This is not a lifetime ban, however. A person with a prior drunk driving conviction may be allowed to re-enter Canada, but only after a significant period of time, and only after being approved by the Minister of Immigration. Specifically, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act does provide that a person "who, after the prescribed period, satisfies the Minister that they have been rehabilitated" may try to re-enter Canada. (Paragraph 36(3)(c); See http://laws. justic.gc.ca/PDF/Statute/I/I02.5.pdf for the complete Act).

However, there are a significant number of steps that the person has to go through. According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, a person can only apply to be "deemed rehabilitated" after 5 to 10 years have passed since the person completed his sentence. The Citizenship and Immigration Canada website outlines what a person needs to complete in order to be "deemed rehabilitated". (See www.cic. gc.ca/English/ visit/conviction.asp#deemed for all of the necessary information).

Beyond just visiting, these provisions will have a substantial impact on anyone who travels to Canada for work purposes as well. So whether you are planning a trip to Canada, passing through, or going there for work, keep in mind that a prior drunk driving, even a first offense, will prevent you from crossing the border.


Brendon Basiga, associate attorney with The Nichols Law Firm PLLC. He can be reached ate: (517) 432-9000 or via e-Mail: bbasiga@nicholslaw.net.

Published: Mon, Apr 19, 2010