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Can You Cross the US/Canada Border with a Criminal Record?
Crossing the border between the United States and Canada may not be as simple as most people think. Did you know that if you have a prior criminal conviction on your record that it may prevent you from entering either country? More specifically, having been convicted of a “crime involving moral turpitude” will most likely cause issues at either border, ranging from a complete denial of entry to a stern warning from the Border Patrol Agent.
The United States government and the judiciary have never explicitly determined what makes a crime one of “moral turpitude.” In fact, whether a crime involves moral turpitude appears to be a highly subjective determination.
The United States Supreme Court has not recognized one definition of the term “moral turpitude.”
While the exact parameters surrounding a crime of moral turpitude are not clear, we do know what the courts have recognized as crimes involving moral turpitude by looking at the substantial amount of case law in this area. There more than 2,000 court cases that address the question of crimes involving moral turpitude.
How do I know if the crime I’ve been charged with involved “moral turpitude?”
In Michigan, MCL 780.621 is the statute that allows certain individuals to “expunge” certain crimes from his/her prior criminal record. That statute is fairly lengthy, so BLF has highlighted certain points below:
The convicted individual must apply to the court where he/she was originally convicted;
To be eligible to apply, that individual can only be convicted of not more than one felony and not more than two misdemeanors;
A person cannot apply if his/her prior conviction was punishable by a maximum of life imprisonment (regardless of the actual sentence he/she received);
A felony conviction for Domestic Violence also cannot be removed from a prior criminal history;
An application cannot be filed until at least five years have passed since the individual was sentenced, completed probation, discharged from parole, or completed any term of imprisonment; whichever is later;
If the application is denied, the individual must wait at least three years before applying again.
There are several other requirements and qualifications that must be met before you can file an application under this law.
If a person was convicted of an Indictable Offence, that person cannot apply for a pardon under this Act until at least 10 years have passed since that person has completed his/her term of imprisonment, paid his/her fines, and completed his/her term of probation;
If a person was convicted of a Summary Conviction Offence, that person cannot apply for a pardon until at least five years have passed since that person has completed his/her term of imprisonment, paid his/her fines, and completed his/her term of probation;
A pardon application cannot be submitted for someone who has been convicted of a sexual assault or sexually-related crime;
Also, a person who has been convicted of more than three Indictable Offences cannot apply for a pardon;
The person applying for the pardon cannot be convicted of a subsequent offence and must prove to the Parole Board of Canada that he/she is of good character.
There are several other requirements and parameters that must be met before you can be eligible to apply for a pardon. A lawyer with Basiga Law Firm can discuss the specific requirements that would apply to your case and guide you through the process of applying for a pardon.
A person with a prior criminal record is not always denied entry into either Canada or the United States. However, certain criminal convictions, specifically a prior conviction for a crime involving moral turpitude, will make a person ineligible for entry into either country.
The Waiver is a request of the foreign country, by the person with the prior criminal history, to waive that person’s ineligibility.
Example 1: John Doe, a Canadian citizen, was previously convicted of breaking and entering, which is considered a crime involving moral turpitude. John Doe will likely be deemed ineligible for entry and will be denied entry into the United States.
Example 2: Jane Doe, a United States citizen, was convicted of manslaughter. Jane Doe will also likely be deemed ineligible for entry and will denied entry into Canada.
John and Jane will have to file Waiver to ask the United States or Canadian Governments to waive their “ineligible for entry” status.
How Do Waivers Work?
Generally speaking, in order to file a Waiver, a person will have to file the necessary paperwork and supporting documentation with the foreign country’s government. Going back to our earlier example, John Doe will be filing his request for a Waiver and his supporting documentation with the United States Government, asking the United States Government to waive his “ineligible for entry” status and to allow John Doe to come into the United States.
This is a fairly complicated process with multiple sets of applications and fees that must be paid. It can be overwhelming to navigate the process alone. Often times there are additional qualifications that need to be met before the Waiver can even be filed. Each person’s case is different and may involve any number of complications.