US/Canadian Border Crossing Law

US Canada Border Crossing Lawyers

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. DUI’s and prior drug possession charges are just some of the many past criminal convictions that may prevent you from successfully crossing the US/ Canada Border.

If you have any doubts that a prior criminal conviction could cause you to have issues crossing the US/Canada border, call us today to set up a consultation.

Don’t wait until you are in line at the border to resolve your legal issues.  Prepare now to avoid any headaches at the border.

What is a “Crime Involving Moral Turpitude?”

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?”

Based on our extensive research, we can identify, with some certainty, which crimes are likely to be found to be crimes of moral turpitude that may result in a denial of entry and which crimes are likely not an issue.

Given the vague nature of “moral turpitude” and the individual nature of each case, we strongly advise any person who is concerned about crossing the border between the United States and Canada to contact BLF’s knowledgeable attorneys for an individual consultation.

Expungement of Criminal Convictions

What is the process for expungement in Michigan?

Since each state governs its own criminal laws, they also have their own statutes that allow for criminal convictions to be “expunged” (i.e. removed) from a person’s criminal record.

Before filing for an application to “expunge” your record, we strongly recommend you contact BLF.  This is important because if your application is denied you are forced to wait 3 years before you can apply again.

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);
  • Traffic offenses (which include Operating While Intoxicated, a.k.a. drunk driving) cannot be removed from a prior criminal history;
  • 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.

Contact BLF before applying to expunge your record. Let our expert attorneys assist you through every step of the process.

What is the process for expungement in Canada?

Unlike the United States, criminal law in Canada is governed by Federal law and is applicable throughout all of the provinces of Canada.  The Criminal Records Act is the Federal statute that governs “expungement” or “pardons” in Canada.  The Act was amended by Bill C-10, also known as the “Safe Streets and Communities Act”, in 2012 which changed a few provisions of the Criminal Records Act.  Much like the statute in Michigan, the Criminal Records Act is fairly lengthy.  Some of the highlights are:

  • 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.

Contact BLF for an individual consultation.



What is a Waiver?

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 be 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.

Call BLF today to schedule a consultation to gain more information on your case.