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DWI and Canada: Can My Minnesota DWI Keep Me Out of Canada?

Having just returned from Canada for a wedding of my relative, the author of this blog, Criminal Defense and DWI attorney Max A. Keller, is reminded that this is summer travel season when many Minnesotans with DWI’s on their records may go to Canada to cool off and vacation.  Accordingly, we thought it was a good time to remind you about the dangers of trying to get into Canada with a Minnesota DWI on your record. In Canada, you see, even a misdemeanor DWI may count as a felony to bar you from entry into Canada for your fishing trip. Many have gone to the border only to find that DWI and Canada do not mix well:

A DWI conviction may have many “collateral” or hidden consequences.  These Hidden Consequences of a DWI can include losing your job, having your driver’s license revoked, getting higher insurance rates or even being dropped by your car Insurance company, having your vehicle forfeited or taken away by the police, etc.  In the last few years, a new Hidden Consequence of getting a DWI has been hitting many people–especially in Minnesota and other Northern or Midwestern states close to Canada:  If you have a DWI on your record, YOU MAY BE DENIED ENTRY INTO CANADA, regardless of whether you are going Fishing in Canada or there for an important business trip, etc. You see in Canada, a first-time Misdemeanor DWI in the States is considered a felony!   And, of course, Canada, like the U.S. and other countries, does NOT allow people convicted of a felony in their home country to enter into Canada–whether for business OR pleasure/tourism.

There is, however, good news.  With a skilled, experienced, and aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney, you can explore the alternatives for preventing yourself from being BANNED from Canada–alternatives including but, Not limited to, taking your case to trial.  I have engineered many alternative dispositions to keep my clients ability to go to Canada intact including fighting the driver’s license revocation and the Criminal DWI cases aggressively, filing pre-trial motions to suppress or throw out the evidence and dismiss the charges, taking the case to trial, getting a Stay of Adjudication so the offense does not go on the record, and possibly convincing the Prosecutor to dismissing the criminal DWI charge in favor of the driver waiving the implied consent challenge to preserve admissibility to Canada.

If a person is convicted of DWI,  a skilled, experienced, and Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney or Minnesota Immigration Attorney can help him/her to fill out forms to submit to the Canadian government to get a waiver or “pardon” from the ban to entry in Canada.  If you are not granted a waiver or “pardon” then you may not be able to  enter Canada for 5 years or more after the completion of your sentence (NOT 5 years after you were sentenced). That means 5 years after you get off probation.  You will need to bring certified copies of your court papers with you to the border to prove that you have completed all the conditions of your sentence including fines, alcohol education classes or alcohol treatment, MADD panel, probation, etc.  A person barred from Canada because of Criminal Convictions can also apply for a Temporary Resident Permit.  All of these forms of relief (a pardon, temporary resident permit, etc.) require high application fees and a long waiting period to see if they are approved or not.  More information is available from Canada’s Immigration Bureau. Also, you will need to bring the following documents with you:

  • passport or birth certificate plus photo identification
  • a copy of court documents for each conviction, and proof that all sentences were completed
  • a recent criminal record check
  • recent police certificate from the country where you were convicted and from anywhere you have lived for six (6) months or longer in the last 10 years.

Given the complexity, long waiting periods, and application fees and attorneys fees involved in trying to get relief from a ban on traveling to Canada because of a DWI conviction in Minnesota or elsewhere in the U.S., a DWI and Canada do not mix.  So, the Best Thing To Do is to hire an Experienced Minnesota DWI Defense Attorney to help you keep a DWI criminal conviction OFF your record in the first place and preserve your ability to go to Canada whenever you want.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

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