Did you know that you might be refused entry to our border states if you have a DUI on your record? Many travelers are shocked to find they are denied entry into Canada or Mexico because of a DUI conviction, even if they are arriving by plane and don’t intend to drive in the country. This is especially true for travelers to Canada.
Canada is especially tough. When a traveler from any country arrives in Canada, whether by land, sea, or air, Canada’s immigration authority will scan the traveler’s passport. In this age of electronic records, a DUI conviction, unless it is very recent or very old, will show up along with all sorts of information about the traveler. Kind of scary, isn’t it? Anyway, Canada considers a DUI a serious offense, even a misdemeanor conviction. Under that country’s immigration laws, individuals are barred from entering the country if they have a criminal history and in most cases a DUI from the United States will be one of those convictions that bars entry to the country. However, if the conviction is over ten years old, the traveler will probably be allowed to enter the country.
If you have a DUI and are planning to travel to Canada, you would be wise to obtain permission to enter the country BEFORE you travel. There are several ways to obtain permission to enter Canada: The traveler can apply for a Temporary Resident Permit, a Criminal Rehabilitation, or what in most cases will be the likely solution, a Deemed Rehabilitation. Although it is beyond the scope of this post to explain these options, I will just note that most casual travelers to Canada with a single misdemeanor DUI conviction will avail themselves of the Deemed Rehabilitation entry. However, before Canada will grant this entry, the traveler’s DUI sentence (including any probation and fines) must be satisfactorily completed.
Mexico, ah Mexico….land of margaritas on the beach, Carlos and Charlie’s, and just general drunken revelry. Not so fast. The answer to whether a person will be allowed to enter Mexico with a DUI on his or her record is: It depends. It’s hard to keep up with Mexico’s ever-changing laws on border entries. A misdemeanor DUI on your record will probably not result in the denial of entry to the country but a felony DUI might.
Mexico shares law enforcement databases with the United States and any crime that appears on a traveler’s U.S. criminal database (NCIC) can be accessed by Mexican authorities through INTERPOL. If a traveler is flying into Mexico, his or her information has already been collected through the Passenger Name Record agreement and Advance Passenger Information System. In any case, when a traveler enters Mexico his or her passport will be scanned and NCIC data, if any, will show on the scan.
Most travelers with a single misdemeanor DUI probably need not worry but the final decision is discretionary and left to the immigration officials. If the traveler has been charged with or has been convicted of a “serious crime” Mexican law provides that the immigration authorities “may decide to refuse the request to enter the country.” The question is, what is considered a “serious crime?” The Mexican Embassy lists quite a few, and although not an exclusive list, driving under the influence is not one of them. However, there is anecdotal evidence that some travelers with DUIs have been refused entry. My guess is that those travelers had felony DUIs.
If you would like to know more about the laws regarding driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs in California, contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William M. Weinberg at his Irvine, California office at 949-474-8008.