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How drunk driving can affect your immigration and travel options

Ontario treats drunk driving offences seriously. Anyone driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit of 0.08 can face the following consequences:

  • Jail time
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Over $800 in penalties and fees
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device

In addition, under Ontario law, you can also face penalties for driving if your BAC is in the “warn range” – between 0.05 and 0.08. For a first offence, you could face a three-day license suspension and be forced to pay a penalty of $250. The consequences for this increase with repeated offences.

In addition to the legal penalties that come with a drunk-driving conviction, there are lesser known collateral consequences that can impact your residency and travel options over the long term.

If you’re a Canadian citizen

Travel between Canada and the U.S. is typically pretty straightforward. Canadians do not require a visa to enter the country. Here in the Toronto area, many of us travel regularly across the border – either for work or recreation.

However, it’s important to understand that the U.S. has tough immigration policies when it comes to allowing foreign nationals with a criminal record into the country. U.S. border officials are given a great deal of discretion in determining whom they admit into the country. They typically deny entry to anyone with a criminal record – regardless of the timeline or severity of the offence.

If you’re an immigrant to Canada

As an immigrant, your actions are under added scrutiny. Canada recently passed the Impaired Driving Act, which categorizes drunk (or drugged) driving as “serious criminality.” This means that drunk driving has been added to the list of deportable offences – along with other drug, violent, theft and property crimes.

This law treats all drunk-driving offences as deportable – regardless of:

  • Severity: whether the driving resulted in an accident or injury to another person
  • Frequency: whether this was a first-time or repeat offence

Protecting your future

If you’re facing a criminal charge, your top priority should be to avoid a conviction. A criminal conviction can lead to all of the consequences outlined above; a criminal charge will not.

It’s critical for anyone who is facing a criminal charge – regardless of their citizenship or immigration status – to seek the help of an experienced criminal defence lawyer. A criminal lawyer knows the ins and outs of Canadian criminal law. They can examine every detail of your case and look for ways to get your charges dropped.

If you’re a Canadian immigrant facing criminal charges, it’s worth noting that you will need to work with two lawyers together – a criminal lawyer and an immigration lawyer. Your criminal lawyer will create a strategy to fight your criminal charges, while your immigration lawyer will ensure that this strategy doesn’t involve any actions that could jeopardize your immigration status.

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