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Can I Leave Canada with a DUI?

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As a frequent reader of our “Knowledge Centre” blog posts, you probably know that Americans and other foreigners who have been arrested for DUI-related offences face significant challenges in trying to enter our country. If not, you must have missed our “Can I enter Canada if I’ve Been Charged with a DUI in the U.S.?” blog post. To recap that article, 50 million Americans are potentially ineligible for admission into our country due to a DUI arrest, and Canada can — and often does — deny entry to any foreign national who has been convicted of a DUI offence. Perhaps an oversight, but we failed to mention that Canada is probably the most restrictive country in the world regarding denyied entry based on DUI.

Given our country’s restrictive nature about foreign nationals and DUI, you’ve got to wonder which countries around the globe might decide to restrict your entry into their domains based on a DUI arrest and/or conviction, whether a few months or 10 years ago. If you’ve been arrested or convicted on impaired charges anytime over the past few decades, you might wonder, can I leave Canada with a DUI? Given that TorontoDUI has a keen professional interest in all issues relating to DUI, we will try to answer that question for you.

Canada is Not Going to Stop You from Leaving

We’ll start with the basics by noting that the Canadian government will not prevent you from leaving the country because of a DUI-related arrest or conviction. That is unless you’re awaiting trial for a Criminal Code Section 320.14 (3) DUI causing death offence, in which case the court may have ordered you to surrender your passport. Depending on the court, the seriousness of charges, other non-DUI-related charges, and potential flight risk, there are other reasons for a court-mandated passport surrender.

At this juncture, we should note that if you are not a Canadian citizen, you will face potential complications upon your return to the country due to any DUI arrest or conviction. To ensure a smooth return to Canada, we suggest that all temporary and permanent residents consult with Immigration and Citizenship Canada before departing.

So Which Countries Might Prevent Your Arrival?

Given Canada’s propensity for denying entry into the country based on DUI, you might think that some other countries would be inclined to engage in a bit of tit-for-tat. However, that’s not the case, and of the world’s 195 countries, only a handful are known to deny entry based on a simple DUI conviction or arrest. In fact, from what we can tell, only Canada specifically bars entry based on DUI being an “inadmissible” offence. Other countries seem to establish “inadmissibility” on the “seriousness” or “criminality” of the offence. Let’s examine the countries that might be most inclined to bar entry due to your DUI.

U.S.A. — Ever Heard of Moral Turpitude?

While the U.S. has a reputation for denying Canadians entry for DUI-related reasons, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency website specifically states: “A single Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction is not grounds to deny entry into the United States.” The site further says that multiple DUI convictions or DUIs combined with other misdemeanours may result in denied entry or require a waiver. Any crime involving “‘moral turpitude’ may be grounds to deny entry into the U.S.,” this section concludes.

We note the “moral turpitude” sentiment because U.S. Customs and Border Patrol used to put far more emphasis on this term regarding entry denials based on DUI. If you’re unfamiliar with moral turpitude, it means "an act or behaviour that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community." This, we note, grants U.S. border patrol agents broad latitude to deny entry to anyone who may have violated any laws.

Mexico — Bad Reputation, But Arbitrarily Denies Entry Due to DUI

After Canada, Mexico has the second worst reputation for denying visitors entry due to DUIs. However, the country does not have specific regulations that bar entry based on a DUI. instead, Mexican law allows its border agents to deny entry to anyone with a criminal conviction in the past 10 years. DUI is considered a criminal conviction in Mexico (and Canada); however, Mexican border agents have complete discretion in denying entry based on DUI and seem to use it arbitrarily.

Be Careful Going Down Under

Australia and New Zealand reserve the right to deny entry to anyone convicted of a criminal DUI offence. However, both country’s border officials tend to only use this to refuse entry for those with severe DUI convictions resulting in significant jail time. To receive a visa, Australia requires visitors to fill out a “good character” form, which includes details about any criminal history. Failure to truthfully complete the form is grounds for visa denial, as is a determination that you are not of good character. In most cases, a simple DUI conviction may not besmirch your character to the level of denial, but Australian border authorities may want to review more details about your arrest and conviction.

Middle Eastern Countries Are Culturally Sensitive About DUI

Muslim countries like Iran and the United Arab Emirates are culturally opposed to alcohol consumption and take a dim view of alcohol-related offences. While we are unaware of any specific regulations denying entry to foreigners who have had a DUI, disclosing alcohol-related offences may complicate your entrance. Ultimately, the decision to deny entry based on a DUI in these countries is up to the individual immigration officer.

Many Countries Conduct Extensive Background Checks

Many countries, such as China, Japan, South Africa, and Malaysia, conduct extensive background checks on incoming visitors. While these countries do not usually deny entry because of a simple DUI conviction, they will deny entry to those who lie about any DUI or other misdemeanour and criminal charges. A serious DUI conviction that resulted in jail time may prove more problematic; however, lying about your criminal past in such countries guarantees a denied entry if they uncover it.

The criminal defence lawyers of TorontoDUI can’t help you gain entry into any of these countries but will advise you to reach out to embassy officials before travelling to assess whether there is anything you can do in advance to better ensure entry. With decades of Greater Toronto Area success in securing favourable results in DUI cases, contact TorontoDUI to preclude worrying about whether you’ll be denied entry into a country due to a DUI.

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