If a person has been arrested for drunk driving but was found not guilty (acquitted), never faced criminal charges, or had the DUI charges completely withdrawn, entry into Canada may be possible if they can demonstrate the good outcome to border officials. When someone is arrested and fingerprinted, a criminal record is produced, and officials frequently have indefinite access to such information. At the Canadian border, there is no presumption of innocence, and hence even a DUI arrest (without conviction) might result in a visitor being denied entry. Impaired driving is a serious offence in Canada, punishable by up to a decade in prison. As a result, any American who has been arrested for drunk driving in the past should anticipate intensive inspection by Canadian border agents and plan appropriately. As long as you are not inadmissible for any other reason. When a court in any country decides that you are not guilty of committing a crime, you are not criminally inadmissible for that crime and you can likely enter and stay in Canada.

Situation 1
If an individual has a dismissed DUI on record, but another DUI is not dismissed and ten years have not passed since the conclusion of all terms, the individual may still be considered legally ineligible.

Situation 2
If a person has a dismissed DUI but also has another distinct, non-dismissed charge on record, that offence should be carefully considered to ensure it does not result in inadmissibility. Not every infraction results in inadmissibility. Indeed, what matters is not the offence itself, but its Canadian equivalent and the corresponding punishment.

Situation 3
If the first DUI charge is later reduced to a lower charge, such as reckless driving, it may still result in your inadmissibility to Canada, as reckless driving is another offence that can result in a person’s inadmissibility.

Situation 4
If a person has a dismissed DUI and no other criminal record, admission into Canada should be permitted. However, this is where the substantial supporting data will make a difference. You must give evidence that your offence was effectively dismissed and that you have no prior convictions on your record.


The Canadian border has quick access of almost all US arrest records. Oftentimes, an arrest record with no matching conviction appears in the database merely because the matter is still before trial.
In such circumstances, border authorities might effectively presume the visitor’s conviction and deport him. The onus is always on the traveller to justify their admission, therefore travellers who have been arrested for a DUI or similar charge in the past should never assume that border officers are aware of the final decision and should arrive at the border with proper paperwork. Following 9/11, Canada and the United States exchange a great deal of information in the interest of security, and unfortunately, all of these lists are not always completely accurate. Certain pieces of information may take an extended length of time to appear in the database, and in rare cases, a record may never appear at all.

Criminal data from sources such as the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database and the Canadian Police Information Centre database is now fully exchanged between the two countries. If an individual is on a list that has not been updated to reflect that their DUI case has been dismissed or reduced to a lower charge, it is conceivable for the individual to be flagged at the border and denied entrance to Canada even after a not guilty or other “no conviction” result. If you have been arrested in the past, you may be needed to demonstrate your admissibility to Canadian border officers in order to enter the country.

Due to significant delays in updating legal records, it is likely that the criminal record reviewed by Canadian immigration officials is years old and does not reflect an acquittal or expungement for DUI (pardon). This is one of the many reasons it is prudent to obtain a Legal Opinion Letter from an immigration lawyer prior to attempting to enter Canada if you have been arrested for impaired driving in the past. An attorney opinion letter can explain in detail to Canada’s immigration officials why a person is not criminally inadmissible to the nation despite the appearance of an arrest on their record. At the end of the day, it is the visitor’s responsibility to demonstrate to border security that they were acquitted of the DUI and are not otherwise inadmissible, which is why we constantly advise individuals to plan ahead. Court records, current police certificates, and current driver abstracts are all examples of documentation that can be provided at the Canadian Port of Entry to demonstrate that a court outcome resulted in a “no conviction.”

Even if an individual has had their DUI expunged, pardoned, or removed through a first-time offender diversion programme, he or she may need to establish this at the border and may still be judged inadmissible based on their specific situation. When travelling to Canada, a pending DUI charge that has not yet achieved a verdict in court can be handled identically to a conviction. Please keep in mind that if the criminal crime occurred in Canada and you were found not guilty or the charges were withdrawn or dismissed, the border should have proper information and entry into Canada should be quite straightforward. Additionally, even if your charge for drunk driving was reduced to wet reckless or dangerous driving, you may still be considered criminally ineligible to Canada and may be denied entry.


Arrested but not convicted of a DUI? If you intend to visit Canada, call us for a free evaluation at 1 (866) 972-7366.


Individuals with many DUI offences (whether or not they have an alcohol problem) frequently request a delayed prosecution or deferred disposition in order to avoid jail time. While a DUI deferral allows a person to escape required minimum sentences and frequently permits them to drive with an ignition interlock device, entering Canada might be challenging even with a verified copy of the Deferred Prosecution Order. Although a deferral of judgment is not a conviction, and the final verdict is effectively “not guilty” if the individual meets all of the deferral’s terms, obtaining legal advice prior to attempting to enter Canada is still recommended. A person may be considered inadmissible to Canada in certain circumstances, such as a deferred sentence that required the subject to plead guilty at some point. Additionally, there is no presumption of innocence at the Canadian border, which means that until all terms of the deferment programme are fully implemented, an individual may be regarded criminally inadmissible and face a refusal.

A nolo contendere or Alford plea may be treated as an uncontested conviction for Canadian immigration purposes and may result in an individual’s inadmissibility to Canada without formal authorization in the form of a Temporary Resident Permit or Criminal Rehabilitation. On the other hand, nolle prosequi is typically considered a voluntary dismissal or “stay of criminal proceedings” by the state prosecutor or local prosecutor and may not be considered a conviction under Canadian immigration law, although once again, seeking professional legal advice prior to attempting to enter Canada is recommended.

Depending on the circumstances, a sealed record may still bar an individual from entering Canada, unless the offence occurred when the defendant was a juvenile. In general, unlike expunging a conviction, sealing a criminal record has no effect on a US citizen’s admittance to Canada. A record that has been expunged in some states may be treated as if it never occurred for the purposes of entering Canada; however, this is not the case for other states, and hence a vacated or expunged DUI or wet reckless driving conviction may still result in a border rejection. Under Canadian law, a foreign disposition is frequently treated as a conviction for the purposes of admissibility if it involved a suspended sentence (with or without a fine) or imprisonment (with or without parole).

If you have been arrested but not convicted of a DUI and intend to fly to Canada, contact us immediately or complete our contact form for a free consultation. Certain alcohol or drug-related offences may not be considered excludable criminal convictions for Canadian immigration purposes, however sentence and the Canadian equivalence of an offence differ by state. The simplest approach to determine whether the outcome of your particular case may be regarded a conviction by Canadian authorities is to speak with a licenced and skilled attorney or their legal team who practises Canadian immigration law. A no-obligation consultation is by far the most convenient way to obtain answers to any queries you may have about drunk driving and the Canadian border. If you need to cross the border urgently and have a prior DUI arrest on your record, you’ll be relieved to learn that our team has considerable expertise assisting US individuals with prior DUI arrests enter Canada for emergency purposes.

When possible, first-time DUI offenders generally choose diversion, deferred sentencing, or a conditional discharge in lieu of a conviction, which allows them to avoid a criminal record as long as they adhere to all of the probationary conditions. These limitations may include the installation of a car interlock device, attendance at alcohol treatment classes, and the restriction of driving to and from work. Apart from drunk or drugged driving, a person may be barred entrance to Canada for a range of criminal offences, including contempt of court for falling behind on child support or other civil financial obligations.

One of the most common grounds for a person to be found not guilty of drunk driving is if the judge or jury determined that the breathalyser was unreliable (a DUI lawyer may push for this if even a single error code appeared on the device during the traffic stop). If the court determines that the breathalyser is defective, the Police Officer’s roadside sobriety test alone may not be sufficient probable cause to bring the accused back to the station for blood testing. In such situations, the very accurate DUI blood test results may be excluded from evidence, and the individual may be acquitted of the impaired driving accusation. However, this initial arrest will almost certainly remain on the individual’s FBI file, which is readable by Canadian border security. Individuals who obtained a suspended sentence or an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACOD) may be regarded ineligible to enter Canada depending on the precise wording of the paperwork.