Drunk driving convictions can result in many negative consequences, including suspension of one's driver's license, jail time, a driver's responsibility fee, various court costs and fees, civil restitution, DMV points, and increased insurance premiums. However, one of the lesser-known consequences of such a conviction is the effects that a drunk driving conviction can have on travel to other countries. In Michigan, where many residents travel to or through Canada, these consequences are especially important to consider.
Canadian immigration law provides that a foreign national is inadmissible if that person has commit a criminal act in another country that "if committed in Canada, would constitute an indictable offence under an Act of Parliament." The relevant indictable offense in Canada for drunk driving is as follows: when a person operates "a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is being operated and the amount of traffic that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be at that place."
Importantly, whether a conviction in the United States qualifies as a indictable offense in Canada depends on whether the conviction and underlying facts satisfy the definition of the Canadian criminal act. Though an OWI conviction likely qualifies as such an offense, it is less clear whether an impaired driving or reckless driving conviction would prevent entry into Canada. Reckless driving has previously led to inadmissibility, and although the final decision rests with a Canadian immigration officer, the Canadian immigration website indicates that if "you have been convicted of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, you will probably be found criminally inadmissible to Canada." If you are declared inadmissible, there are options that may allow you into Canada--however, there is no guarantee you will receive such permission, and it can be a costly process.
If you are facing a drunk driving charge and traveling to or through Canada is important to your career or your family life, it is important to discuss the immigration consequences of such a conviction. It is especially important to note that lesser charges that are sometimes offered during plea bargaining, like reckless driving, may still prevent you from entering Canada. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand what effect potential criminal convictions may have on your international travel.