A very common question that clients ask me is “Mike can I travel to the United States with a criminal record?” Well first of all, that’s a very loaded question and our firm does not purport to be experts on U.S. Immigration border law but I’ll give you some generalizations about the U.S. border law and give you a few tips and that.First of all, at the border they define crimes as either crimes of moral turpitude or non-moral turpitude. In other words crimes that don’t involve moral turpitude. Let me give you some examples. A crime of moral turpitude is like theft, assault with a weapon, drug offences. Offences of dishonesty. Those type of offences. The Immigration Act in the States clearly says that you are not going to get admitted to the States if you have committed a crime of moral turpitude in Canada. Then there’s a whole laundry list list under their Immigration Act, the U.S. Immigration Act for crimes that don’t involve moral turpitude and currently, I say currently, that’s a real caveat, impaired driving is not a crime of moral turpitude. You should be able to enter with impaired driving. That is currently at least. The law could change at any time. Assault, that’s a simple assault where there’s no bodily harm will also allow you to enter.

Here’s the difficulty though. The border guards are not trained lawyers or Judges. So you show up at the border and they are going to have you on the Canadian, they’ve got access to our Canadian computer. It’s called CPIC. The Canadian police computer with all of the information about your record in it and they’re going to ask you questions. You better truthfully answer those questions by the way, they have access to it. If you lie they could make you inadmissible just for that. Border guards make mistakes unfortunately. I’ve seen situations where they’ve refused people for a DUI where they shouldn’t or a simple assault and you’re going to have to clear that up with a lawyer.

What we advise clients in this situation is first of all, they should probably retain an expert. At least talk to an expert as we don’t purport to be experts.  I’ve read about it. I’ve consulted with experts but our firm restricts our practice to criminal law.  We are not border experts but that’s a rough break down of what you are going to face at the border. Tell the truth.

Another thing is they don’t recognize conditional discharges.  A conditional discharge is a Canadian sentence where you’re not convicted, you don’t have a record but the U.S. considers that a record.  So if you get a conditional discharge for theft you are probably not going to get in. Another piece of advice I should offer you is that if you have been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude I would consult with an immigration lawyer before you cross the border. You don’t want to be in a situation where you are detained for hours or worse find yourself under arrest and deported and you know hours of embarrassment with your family at the border so perhaps an immigration lawyer can apply for a waiver in advance.

So it’s a tricky situation. Border guards do make mistakes on occasion. On a large they are pretty good but I’ve seen it happen and then you are going to have to hire a lawyer to clear it up.

By Published On: July 31, 2023Last Updated: June 26, 2024Categories: Criminal Harassment, Video

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