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Impaired driving: what a conviction could mean for immigrants

If you have been convicted of a “serious criminal offence”—either in Canada or abroad—it will likely lead to your inadmissibility to the country of deportation from it. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) goes to great lengths to ensure that whoever enters the country poses little risk to public safety.

For a long time, the list of offences constituting “serious criminality” fell under one of the below categories:

  • Theft and property crimes
  • Extreme violence—such as assault, manslaughter or murder
  • Drug crimes

As of December 18, 2018, a new law has gone into effect, which extends the list of deportable crimes to include impaired driving.

New impaired driving law

The new law means that if you’re convicted of impaired driving on or after this date—either in Canada or overseas—you could lose your permanent resident status in Canada. You could face deportation from the country and receive a ruling of permanent inadmissibility.

This law is strict. It applies even if:

  • You’re a first-time offender
  • Your offence did not result in an accident
  • No one was injured

Charge and conviction are not the same

It’s important to understand that being charged with impaired driving—or any other crime—is not the same as being convicted, from an immigration standpoint. Criminal charges alone do not lead to deportation or inadmissibility. That’s why it’s important to avoid a conviction.

How an immigration lawyer can help

If you’re facing criminal charges, you may assume that you should contact a criminal defence lawyer for help. However, if you’re an immigrant facing criminal charges, it’s critical to have both an immigration lawyer and a criminal defence lawyer on your legal team.

A criminal defence lawyer specialises in helping you to avoid a conviction—or even a trial—which is crucial. However, they do not specialize in immigration law—so they may not realize how a certain plea bargain or admission of facts could influence your immigration status.

Your immigration lawyer can work with your criminal defence lawyer to avoid any fatal errors that could destroy your chances of staying in the country. They can also advise you on how to communicate with immigration authorities. In addition, an immigration lawyer can help you appeal your case to the Immigration Appeal Division of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board, if necessary.

The new law places additional pressure on Canadian immigrants to maintain exemplary behaviour. However, if you find yourself in trouble with the law, it’s important that you take advantage of the right expert resources to help you.

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