What Happens When I Try to Cross the Canadian Border with a DUI Offense

A Canadian with a prior DUI offence will not typically have a problem when travelling to the United States. An American, who has some type of alcohol-related offence, is likely to be turned away at the Canadian border.

  • You could be turned away even if you arrive at the border as a passenger in a friend or family member’s vehicle.
  • You could be turned away even if you have no plans of driving in Canada.
  • You could be turned away even if you only had a misdemeanour offence.
  • You could be turned away even if you’re an official or guest for a special event. Former United States President George W. Bush was required to get a special waiver to enter Canada due to his drunk-driving offence back in 1976!

The DUI laws in Calgary and in most provinces and territories in Canada are very tough. The country as a whole is unforgiving when it comes to impaired driving offenders. So if you have a DUI offence, then there’s a very good chance you will have to obtain a special permission to enter the Canadian border.

Can I Still Get Into Canada?

There are cases of people who were permitted to cross the border in spite of their DUI offence. There have also been cases where they were allowed into the country a couple of times but were stopped the next time.

The reason for this is border officers have total discretion as to whom they can allow into the country. Some people are allowed to cross without any problem. Others are brought in for questioning, and then there are those that they deny outright.

In Canada, drunk driving is considered a grave offense. If you want to get into the country, don’t count on being granted entry without obtaining permission. You will most likely need to file for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP), which will allow you to enter Canada only for a specific trip. Some are required to file for Rehabilitation and when you are classified as “Rehabilitated” your DUI record will be removed as long as you don’t commit another offense.

Tips When Talking to Border Officers

First of all, do not lie to a border officer. Misrepresenting your record and giving false information could permanently bar you from entering the country. Yes, you can be banned for life for lying.

Next, it’s not a good idea to try to enter a different border crossing on the same day. Border officers have a centralized database and denied admissions are updated very quickly.

If you committed the offence a long time ago (i.e. 10 years ago) then your chances of being allowed entry is higher. But it still doesn’t mean you won’t encounter any problems at the border crossing. Consult a lawyer who specializes in DUI cases if you’re planning to visit Canada soon.