If you plan on traveling from California to Canada with an alcohol-related offense on your record, such as a DUI or even a wet reckless, it’s important to know your options for legal entry. Unfortunately, a single DUI can make you criminally inadmissible to Canada. Before you plan a trip for business, leisure or family purposes, talk to an experienced immigration attorney. People are turned away at the border every day – don’t let this be you! By planning correctly, you can enjoy a wonderful trip to the Great White North.
California DUI Laws
In California, driving under the influence can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. It depends on various factors, such as how far over the limit you were, whether this was your first DUI and if you are being charged for other crimes, such as excessive speeding or reckless driving.
Generally speaking, a first DUI in California is a misdemeanor. It carries the following penalties:
- Fines. A first DUI has a fine up to $1,000, plus “penalty assessments.”
- Jail. Most judges give probation for a first DUI, though it is possible to receive 48 hours to six months in jail.
- License suspension. A first DUI typically includes a six-month license suspension. First offenders are allowed to get a restricted license that lets them drive to and from work or school.
- Probation. Many first offenders get probation for three to five years. Included in the probation is DUI school.
If you are charged with a second DUI in California, the penalties are more severe.
- Fines. Fines for a second DUI are up to $1,000, the same as with a first DUI offense. Penalty assessments are also charged.
- Jail. Second offenders may get jail time for up to 12 months. However, these hours can often be served on house arrest.
- License suspension. You can lose your license for two to three years with a second DUI. Second offenders have the option to apply for a restricted license that lets them drive to work or school.
- Probation. Second DUI offenders are usually given a three to five-year term of informal probation and DUI school.
Being charged with a third DUI carries similar consequences, except jail time and license suspension are longer.
Traveling to Canada with a DUI in California
If you get a DUI in the state of California, you will have to pay fines, serve jail or probation time and complete DUI school. There are no restrictions on traveling within the U.S. You may visit your friends or relatives without any trouble. However, this isn’t the case if you wish to go to Canada.
Some Californians plan a scenic road trip from California to parts of Canada. If you plan on doing the same but have a DUI conviction on your record, you must be aware that Canada can deny you entry. Having just one DUI on your record makes you criminally inadmissible under Canada’s immigration law.
A single DUI conviction is a serious offense in the eyes of Canadian law. This is also true what is known as a “Wet Reckless” offense in California. Even one single wet reckless offense can make you inadmissible to enter Canada. If you show up at the border and have an alcohol-related offense on your record, even if it was from a long time ago, you could be turned way. Border officers have the right to deny or allow entry to anyone.
How can I visit Canada if I have a DUI in California?
The best thing to do is talk with an immigration attorney about your options. Generally speaking, those who travel from California to Canada with a DUI have two options:
- Applying for a Temporary resident permit (TRP): If you need to travel to Canada for business, vacation or to visit family, you can apply for a TRP. The permit will allow you to enter Canada for a specific period of time, and up to a maximum of three (3) years at a time. Once expired, you can have the TRP be renewed. In addition, you may request a TRP at any point, even if you were just recently arrested or convicted.
- Applying for Criminal rehabilitation: Another solution to overcoming criminal inadmissibility is to apply for criminal rehabilitation. The process of obtaining criminal rehabilitation takes longer than that of obtaining a TRP, but it is a permanent solution. Once you are approved, it is good for life. Therefore, you will be able to travel freely to and from Canada without your prior conviction being an issue. You may apply for criminal rehabilitation only once five (5) years have passed from the moment when you have completed all conditions pertaining to your conviction.