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Can I get deported from Canada for drunk driving?

As an immigrant in Canada, you probably realize that you’re under more scrutiny than most. Immigration authorities have a responsibility to keep their country safe—and to prevent nefarious individuals from entering it. One of the ways they do this is by restricting access to people with a criminal past.

If you’re a foreign national wishing to travel or move Canada, a criminal record could prevent you from gaining entry. If you’re a non-citizen already living in Canada, committing certain crimes could result in your removal from the country.

Up until recently, only certain categories of crimes were considered serious enough to warrant deportation or inadmissibility to Canada. These included:

  • Certain theft and property crimes—such as robbery or breaking and entering
  • Certain violent crimes—such as assault or manslaughter
  • Drug crimes outlined in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act

However, due to a recent change in the law, which went into effect on December 18, 2018, impaired driving now falls under the category of “serious criminality.” For non-citizens residing in Canada, this law means that you could face deportation if you’re convicted of drunk or drugged driving on or after this date.

Are all impaired driving offences treated equally?

The new law shows little consideration for the type or severity of an impaired driving offence. It applies even if:

  • It was your first offence
  • Your impaired driving did not cause an accident
  • Your impaired driving did not injure someone else

How does a charge differ from a conviction?

It’s worth understanding that being charged with impaired driving will not automatically result in deportation or inadmissibility. A conviction is necessary to trigger such immigration penalties. Therefore, avoiding a conviction is critical.

Whom should I contact for help?

Most people think that if they’re arrested for a crime, they should contact a criminal defence lawyer for help. However, the situation is different for immigrants.

As an immigrant facing criminal charges, you need a two-pronged legal strategy. You need a legal team comprised of both a criminal defence lawyer and an immigration lawyer.

A criminal defence lawyer is an expert at helping you to avoid a trial or conviction. However, such lawyers do not have a deep understanding of immigration law. If a criminal defence lawyer is your only legal counsel, they could advise you to accept a certain plea deal or admit to certain facts—without realizing how such actions could affect your ability to stay in Canada.

An immigration lawyer can be extraordinarily valuable in such circumstances. Your immigration lawyer can partner with your criminal defence lawyer to devise a legal strategy that best protects your immigration status. If necessary, your immigration lawyer can also support an appeal of your case to the Immigration and Refugee Board.

The new law places additional pressures on Canadian immigrants to avoid even a slight misstep with the law. However, having the right legal team can help you safeguard your immigration status—even after an arrest.