What Charges Make You Inadmissible To The USA?

May 10, 2019

Canada has had a special relationship with the United States for many years which has made travel between the two countries very easy. But certain charges and convictions can make you inadmissible to the USA.

Still, border regulation is becoming more strict, especially in the wake of cannabis legalization.

Lawmakers are warning Canadian citizens to wipe their phones of illegal downloads and prescription information. As well as distasteful memes, incriminating photos, and marihuana references before travelling to the United States.

Both Canadian and American border agents have the right to search and confiscate phones. They are acting carefully to prevent cannabis from entering the US from Canada. As well as looking to interrupt and prevent other cross-border criminal activity such as money laundering.

Now, lawyers are being warned to ensure that client information is encrypted and securely locked into cloud-based storage on all their devises and laptops before crossing the border. Recently a Canadian lawyer had his cell phone and laptop confiscated as he was returning from an extended stay in a source country.

But marihuana use or possession aren’t the only things that can keep you from travelling to the states. In this article, we examine a list of charges that can make you inadmissible to the USA.

Moral Turpitude

A criminal record does not automatically make you inadmissible to the US. However, crimes of moral turpitude do. The term moral turpitude is a legal concept that determines a person’s admissibility to the states based on morality and honesty.

Convictions for crimes that involve harm, dishonesty, or current-day political issues can result in barring entry to the USA. Some of the common convictions that prohibit travel to the US due to moral turpitude include:

Controlled Substance Violations

Convictions for drug offences and controlled substance violations have long been an issue for Canadians hoping to enter the US. Over the past year, this has been tightened even further.

Canadians have been denied entry or even given lifetime bans from entering the USA after admitting to having consumed marihuana. Any drug-related conviction is likely to prohibit entry into the USA.

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking, whether or not it involves smuggling people across borders, is a red flag at border crossings. This falls under moral turpitude. The USA will not allow any non-citizen with a human trafficking conviction to enter the country.

Serious Criminal Offence With Immunity From Prosecution

There are two ways to achieve immunity from prosecution. Functional immunity is granted to people who perform certain functions in government. Personal immunity is granted in relation to the office held by an individual.

In the right instances, this immunity can prevent the individual from facing prosecution for a criminal offence. For instance, with functional immunity, a person cannot face prosecution for committing an offence while performing an act of state.

Immunity from prosecution protects the individual through international law. But it does not guarantee entry into America. While convictions for minor offences may be ignored, any serious crime is likely to prevent entry.

Multiple Convictions (Total Prison Sentence Exceeding 5 Years)

Repeat offences can result in an entry prohibition, even if the individual convictions did not offend moral turpitude. If the total prison sentencing exceeds 5 years, you are unlikely to be permitted into the US. This is a matter of years sentenced, not of time served.

Do You Need To Be Convicted To Be Denied Entry?

Border services officers do not need to see an actual conviction to deny entry. They can use past criminal charges to make you inadmissible to the USA. Even if those charges did not lead to a conviction, the USA may not recognize alternatives. American custom and border officers may regard pardons and conditional discharges as convictions.

Border officers can also prohibit entry by asking screening questions or using other means. Some other reasons for denied entry without conviction include:

  • Admitting to drug use
  • Admitting to investing in cannabis
  • Appearing in a police report
  • Admitting to arrest (without conviction)
  • Lying to a Border and Custom Agent – Obstruction
  • If pardoned but still appear on the National Sex Offender Registry

Can You Be Denied Entry For Youth Criminal Convictions?

One of the most longstanding youth criminal law myths is that criminal records are automatically erased when you become an adult. The conviction stays on a young offender’s record for years after completing their sentencing. So turning 18 does not guarantee entry into the USA.

When border services officers look at youth criminal convictions they consider the:

  • Type of conviction
  • Time since the offence
  • Time since completing sentencing and/or probation

Toronto Criminal Defence Attorney

Access to the USA is important to many Torontonians. It’s a common destination for travel, visiting family, and work. Charges that risk making you inadmissible to the US can have real consequences for Canadians. It limits opportunities, can disrupt family life, and affect your livelihood.

If you’re facing criminal charges you need a criminal attorney. William Jaksa is a Toronto criminal defence attorney with experience in handling cases involving moral turpitude.

Contact William Jaksa today for a consultation.

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