Canada has taken a hard stance against drunk and drugged driving in recent years. Many provinces have passed increasingly strict laws with harsh penalties for drunk – or otherwise impaired – driving, in an attempt to curb the rise in impaired driving-related accidents and fatalities.
British Columbia has the harshest drunk driving laws in the entire country. In British Columbia, anyone who is pulled over for suspected drunk driving and either refuses a breathalyzer test or tests over the legal limit could face:
- $500 in fines
- 90-day driving suspension
- Impounded vehicle
However, if you’re an immigrant, a drunk-driving mistake could lead to much bigger problems.
How a criminal record affects immigration status
Certain criminal convictions can result in foreigners being blocked from entering Canada (if they’re not already here) or removed from Canada (if they reside here). If you are a legal, permanent resident in Canada, an impaired driving conviction can result in you being deported.
What crimes are deportable?
Not all crimes are treated equally by the immigration system – and only some lead to deportation. Under Canadian law, any crime that falls under the category of “serious criminality” is a deportable offence. Up until recently, deportable crimes basically fell under these three categories:
- Drug crimes
- Violent crimes
- Theft or property crimes
However, Canada recently passed the Impaired Driving Act, which now defines impaired driving as “serious criminality” as well. This means that an impaired driving offence is now deportable.
Does offence severity matter?
Unfortunately, the law does not distinguish between minor and more serious impaired driving offences. You can be deported for impaired driving even if:
- You are a first-time offender
- Your driving did not result in an accident
- No one was injured as a result of your driving
What are my next steps?
As an immigrant, it’s important to understand two key things if you’ve been arrested for impaired driving:
- A charge is not the same as a conviction. Having a criminal charge alone is not enough to get you deported. What’s important is that you avoid a conviction. A criminal defence lawyer can be extremely helpful in getting your charges dropped.
- A criminal defence lawyer is not enough. Immigrants facing criminal charges need two-pronged legal counsel. A criminal lawyer is your best bet for fighting your criminal charges, but they will not be familiar with the immigration law considerations of your case. Therefore, a criminal lawyer could give you advice that’s good for a citizen – but disastrous for a non-citizen.
It’s critical for immigrants facing criminal charges to work with an immigration lawyer and a criminal lawyer to create the best possible strategy for their case. They can work together to both fight your criminal charges and appeal your order for removal from the country.