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Changes to Canada’s DUI Laws Could Adversely Impact Status of Immigrants

Illinois is relatively close to the Canadian border, and people from Illinois and other nearby states often move there for work or other reasons but maintain their American citizenship. As in Illinois, driving while intoxicated is illegal in Canada. Recent changes to the Criminal Code of Canada, though, can result in significant penalties for non-citizen residents who are convicted of DUI offenses. If you are accused of a DUI crime in Illinois or elsewhere, it is in your best interest to meet with an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer to discuss your rights.

Changes to the Canadian Law

In December 2018, a new law went into effect in Canada, modifying penalties for DUI offenses. Specifically, it changed certain rules with regard to sentencing in that it increased the maximum penalty for such sentences from five to ten years imprisonment in cases in which the Crown proceeds by indictment. While this change may seem relatively insignificant, it may result in a profound impact on people who live in Canada but are not citizens.

Specifically, under a combination of the new DUI law and a Canadian immigration law, DUI convictions would be considered serious crimes, rendering the defendant ineligible for citizenship in Canada. While the change in the law was solely designed to increase penalties for DUI offenses, it is anticipated that it will have a disproportionate punitive effect on people who are not Canadian citizens.

Consequences of DUI Convictions in Illinois

Generally, a first-time DUI offense is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of $2,500. The minimum mandatory fine is $500. People who have a BAC of 0.16 or higher, however, face a mandatory sentence of at least 100 hours of community service. The penalties increase for each subsequent DUI conviction and depend in part on the defendant’s BAC at the time the offense was committed.

A DUI conviction may affect a non-citizen’s residency or immigrant status as well. Broadly speaking, a conviction for a crime of moral turpitude may result in the denial of entry, application for citizenship, or application for permanent residency. Crimes of moral turpitude include those in which bodily harm is caused or threatened by a reckless act, which may include DUI offenses. Even if a defendant is sentenced to court supervision, which is not a conviction pursuant to Illinois law, it may still count as a conviction for purposes of determining his or her good moral character in an immigration matter, as under federal law, the definition of convictions includes sentences of court supervision. Illinois DUI convictions may also be grounds for denying non-citizens DACA status.

Speak with a Skillful Illinois DUI attorney

A DUI conviction can cause irreparable harm to a person’s rights, reputation, and career, and it is critical for anyone charged with a DUI offense to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. Theodore J. Harvatin, of the Harvatin Law Offices, PC, is a skillful Illinois DUI defense attorney who can advise you of your potential defenses and help you to seek the best legal outcome available. You can reach Mr. Harvatin by calling 217.525.0520 or via the online form to set up a conference.

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