How an OWI conviction can limit your ability to cross the border

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2024 | Drunk Driving |

If you’re facing an operating while intoxicated (OWI) or other impaired driving-related charge, it’s crucial to take it seriously and consider all the potential effects that a conviction could have on your life.

For example, if you travel to Canada for business, vacation or to visit family or friends, you could lose the right to do that if you have an impaired driving conviction on your record. Our neighbors across the border have some very strict regulations regarding impaired driving.

How long can you be kept out of the country?

Unless you have a “valid reason,” you can’t enter Canada from the U.S. for five years after an OWI conviction. After that, if you have no other convictions on your record, you can apply for “rehabilitation” or pay a fine to enter the country. After ten years, the country considers a person with a drunk driving conviction “rehabilitated by time” if they’ve had no other legal issues. Then they’re typically free to enter the country.

What if you need to enter the country while you’re still barred?

If you need to go to Canada before that initial five-year period is up, you can apply for a temporary resident permit and pay a fee. According to the Canadian Government, “An immigration or border services officer will decide if your need to enter or stay in Canada outweighs the health or safety risks to Canadian society.” That means that you’ll need to be prepared to provide evidence of the reason why you need to cross the border.

If your work and/or your personal life requires regular travel to Canada (or if you just enjoy vacationing there), it’s important to understand that an OWI or similar conviction could make that a lot more challenging. That’s just one reason not to plead guilty without exploring the possibility of contesting the charge or seeking to have it reduced. With legal guidance, you can better determine your options and work toward prevailing in court.