Canada is changing the way drug and alcohol impaired driving offenses are treated. Whether you live in Canada or plan to visit for work, family or vacation purposes, it’s important to know how the new laws may affect you. The current Criminal Code prohibits driving while intoxicated and related offenses, but the new legislation has reformed the regime.

In April 2017, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-46. The new law is designed to deal with drunk driving offenses, such as DUIs and DWIs, in a more structured manner. It has been the most comprehensive reform made to the Criminal Code in 40 years and the new law came into effect on December 18th, 2018.

Let’s take a closer look at how Bill C-46 is changing the Criminal Code and what this means for those with DUIs on their records.

Current Criminal Code Punishes DUIs with a Maximum Prison Term of Up to Five Years. (But, it’s about to get more strict.)

In Canada, impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of injury and death. Until now, drunk driving offenses such as DUIs were criminally punishable with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Under the new law, the maximum penalty for a DUI will increase to 10 years behind bars.

New Law Makes Entry into Canada with a DUI More Difficult

As of December 2018, a drunk driving offense will be considered “serious criminality” instead of just “criminality” as it was in the past, and carry a maximum applicable punishment of up to 10 years in prison. This will have a major impact on people who want to travel to Canada with a DUI or a DWI conviction.

However, it is important to note that this new law is not retroactive and will only apply to new DUI offenses committed after December 18th, 2018. What this means is that if you are convicted of a DUI or similar offense after this date, you will no longer be deemed rehabilitated by the effect of time no matter how many years will have passed, as the offense is one of “serious criminality” and is not subject to an offense which can be forgiven after 10 years will have elapsed. No matter how many years will have passed since the DUI or DWI conviction, you will always need to apply for either a TRP or for Criminal Rehabilitation to be able to travel to Canada legally. It is also expected that the process of applying for approval of rehabilitation will become more burdensome on the applicant.

Having one DUI won’t affect your ability to travel across the American border if you are a Canadian citizen, but it can and will make things more complicated for US citizens and residents, as well as other foreign nationals when entering Canada. People with DUIs, or even lesser charges like reckless driving or a DWAI, have been denied entry in the past. The new legislation is expected to make this even more difficult.

If You Live in the US, Why Does the New Law Matter?

When entering Canada with a criminal conviction on your record, the applicable legislation, namely the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Act, will consider the crime committed and its equivalents under Canadian Criminal laws, not the US law. If you have even just one DUI, gaining entry into Canada is not an easy task.

You can, however, overcome this inadmissibility issue by requesting a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), but you will need to have a compelling reason as to why you need to enter Canada. You can also apply for criminal rehabilitation. Both exemptions require help from experienced Canadian immigration lawyers.

If you have been denied entry to Canada in the past, or are concerned that you will be, consult with a Canadian immigration attorney. The laws are becoming incredibly strict, making it more difficult and time consuming to cross the border. By working with an attorney, you can come prepared and leave your stress and worry behind.

For more information on traveling to Canada with a criminal offense on your record, contact the experienced lawyers at KLM Immigration Law at 1-888-603-3003.