Friday, October 4, 2013

Will a "Wet Reckless" in California Prevent You From Entering Canada?

So you got a wet reckless deal reduced down from a DUI in California and now have aspirations of traveling to Canada on a business trip or perhaps on a pleasure vacation with your family, how will that past indiscretion affect your ability to fly into the country or depart a cruise ship into Canada?  Well, the short answer is that it may render you "inadmissible" which means you will be barred for entry into the country forever.  You see, Canada deems all misdemeanor crimes to be the same as a felony offence, these include minor traffic tickets such as reckless driving, exhibition of speed, driving while under suspension, drunk driving and DWI.

How does Canada find our about your past conviction?  All information that is available to U.S. authorities through various databases such as the FBI and California Department of Justice are shared with Canada.  While not all information is shared between the two countries, the current US-Canada security arrangements signed by President Obama do empower the Canadian and US border patrol agents to access our respective criminal registry systems.  Although the signed agreements were rarely applied in the pre "911" era, agents now routinely run checks and background investigations on all incoming travelers regardless if traveling by air, sea or land.

So what can be done.  According to one Torrance DUI Attorney who has represented numerous clients charged with DUI over the last 20 years, first, try and obtain an expungement of the conviction in California Court.  Try and get the case record sealed or dismissed whenever possible.  Avoid being placed on probation for any misdemeanor, attempt to obtain a diversion disposition which does nor result in a conviction on your record.  If this is not possible, you can apply for a temporary resident permit or a waiver if your travel is for short duration.  A criminal pardon is also possible if the crime occurred more than 5 years prior.  A "criminal rehabilitation application can be obtained and processed.  It is best to go through a Canadian attorney who has familiarity with the laws in that country.  A successful pardon can restore admissibility and erase the offense from your Canadian record.

At the end of the day, be honest with the immigration officials if asked about a prior arrest or criminal conviction.  many officers will give you a break and ignore minor transgressions if you are up front with them at the outset. Many DUI charges that were "back in the college day" or were isolated and remote are simply disregarded and the traveler is able to pass through.