One of our law firm’s offices is located in a border town in Windsor, Ontario. We are often confronted with a situation and question from clients where they ask, “Mr. Kruse, am I inadmissible at the United States’ border, if I plead guilty or am found guilty for impaired driving or refusing to provide a breath sample or blowing over the legal limit?” The short answer is the current states of the law is you should not be admissible at the U.S. border if you are convicted of a drinking and driving offence in Canada. A DUI should not preclude you from entering the border and crossing over to the States. It is an interesting issue because U.S. immigration/border law divides crimes into moral turpitude and non-moral turpitude offences. Moral turpitude crimes, I cover this in another video in general, are crimes of “depravity”. These include serious violent crimes such as sexual assault, assault with a weapon or crimes of dishonesty such as theft, fraud or drug charges. In other words, the types of crimes that are more serious and negatively reflect on a person’s character. However, a simple DUI conviction is not considered to be a crime of moral turpitude by U.S. customs officials. That is the current state of the law at the U.S. border and has been the law for many years. Of course, this law could be subject to change at any time and we are not sure if it will change tomorrow. However, as of April 2021, a Canadian citizen who has been convicted of a DUI should be able to enter the United States. Now, it becomes a little bit problematic for the odd person in some circumstances, but unfortunately I have seen the odd or rare U.S. border guard make a mistake in this regard. They are not necessarily trained in the law and most of them know this issue from their training, but it always surprising when a rare client is mistakenly refused entry to the United States, but should not have been refused entry. Of course they have been mistakenly turned back at the border and have to clear that up with U.S. Immigration/Customs which can take some effort, paperwork and time. That is an unfortunate error. There is no guarantee you are going to get into the United States with a Canadian DUI conviction but again, I know there are hundreds of people from Windsor who regularly cross the U.S. border with a DUI conviction and never have a problem. One of the issues I always tell my clients, if you have a prior conviction for any crime, including a DUI, always tell the truth at the U.S. border. A U.S. border guard/customs officer can ask you questions such as whether you have a criminal record. You should always tell the truth and do not lie to them and prepare your questions and answers in advance and know what you are going to say in advance. This includes where you have a conditional discharge which Is not a criminal record in Canada. You will want to explain to the border guard what a conditional discharge means because it is not a criminal record in Canada, but in the United States they consider a conditional discharge to be criminal record. At that point, whether you will be able to enter the United States or not will depend whether it is a crime of moral turpitude or not. For example, simple assault is currently not a crime of moral turpitude at the U.S. border and a Canadian citizen with a simple assault conviction should be technically able to enter the U.S.
Interestingly, Canada does not allow United States citizen who have been convicted of a DUI in the States or in Canada to enter Canada without receiving a waiver allowing them to enter. It is frankly a bit unfair that Canadian border services officer are refusing U.S. citizens entry for a DUI conviction and the States allows Canadians to enter for same. For this reason, it is possible that the law at the United States border might change at some point in the future in retaliation for this perceived unfairness. You need to make sure you stay on top of U.S. border/immigration law if you have a DUI conviction, and regularly check out U.S. government’s website to make sure you are still admissible. But as of April 2021 and for many years in the past, you are admissible.