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How Driving Under the Influence (DUI) affects visits to Canada

When you arrested for DUI, there are two potentially negative consequences. The first is criminal.

You can be sentenced to jail if you are convicted of DUI. The consequences of an Illinois DUI arrest are less severe if you are eligible for, and receive, court supervision.

Court supervision is not considered a conviction. Therefore, your driver’s license will not be revoked. In addition, if you receive court supervision, the judge cannot sentence you to jail time.

Supervision for DUI is available only if you have never previously been convicted of DUI, or received court supervision for DUI, or received reckless driving as part of a plea bargain in connection with a DUI charge. Even if you meet all the criteria, you are not automatically entitled to supervision. The final decision about whether someone who is eligible for supervision receives it lies with the judge.

Since supervision is not entered on your driving record as a conviction, you may mistakenly assume that DUI supervision does not “go on your record”. That is only partially accurate.

The Illinois Secretary of State maintains a list of your driving offenses (this is called the “abstract”). There are two types of abstracts, one being known as the “court purposes” abstract and the other the “public” abstract.

The court purposes abstract is accessible only to the police, the judge, the prosecuting attorney and you. This abstract shows any DUI supervision you receive.

It stays on that record forever. It cannot be expunged. The Secretary of State will not remove it even if you obtain a Governor’s pardon. Therefore, it never really “goes away”.

The public abstract is available to your employer and insurance company. Supervision will not appear on that abstract. But an employer could discover by other perfectly legal sources (such as courthouse records) that you were arrested and received supervision.

Another issue arising from an Illinois DUI arrest involves the statutory summary suspension (SSS). During the course of the DUI arrest, the police almost certainly require you to submit to a breath or blood test to determine your blood alcohol level.

If you refuse the test, or if you agree to testing and register a blood alcohol level of .08, the Secretary of State will suspend your driver’s license beginning on the 46th day following the date of the refusal or testing. This suspension will be noted on your abstract. And it stays on the court purposes abstract forever, even if you receive court supervision or even if the DUI is “thrown out”.

Canada and the United States share driving records. Canada considers DUI supervision, a DUI conviction or an SSS a “serious offense”, which may be grounds for Canada to deny you entry as a visitor.

This bar to entry will be for 5 years. If you have no other serious offenses during the next 5 years, you can apply to Canadian immigration authorities for “rehabilitation”. This normally takes time. If you have not worked this out in advance with a DUI lawyer, Canada may deny you entry into their country.

The 5 year clock starts ticking only once you have served all your time, paid all your fines, completed all your classes and been released from probation. After 10 years, rehabilitation becomes much easier.

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