DUI in Professional Sports


We all regard professional athletes as almost superheroes.  They move with the speed of a cheetah, possess the strength of a lion, and do so all while entertaining the fans.  However, while many of us do idolize them, we must realize that they are not above the law.

Recently, there have been a string of professional athletes being charged with DUI, in leagues such as the NHL, NFL and the MLB.  In November, Riley Sheahan, a top NHL prospect with the Detroit Red Wings was pulled over and charged with a DUI in the United States.  He registered a blood alcohol level of almost four times the legal limit, and now faces potential jail time and deportation back to Canada. 

In July 2011, Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin pleaded guilty to DUI and served time in jail as well as house arrest for his offenses in Arizona.  Also in 2011, NHL star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien was charged with operating a boat while under the influence.  Unfortunately for these two NHL players, the conviction of a DUI will remain on their record indefinitely and may prevent them from entering countries like Canada or the United States in the future, despite their star status.

 The National Football league is another professional organization where players get their fair share of charges of DUI.  Most recently, Alec Ogletree, a potential first round draft pick out of Georgia, is facing DUI charges stemming from driving with a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit.  This charge may negatively affect his draft stock and more importantly earn him a possible refusal of entry to Canada, should he ever choose to come.  A more prominent DUI case in the NFL occurred in December when Dallas Cowboys’ Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter after his best friend and teammate, Jerry Brown, was killed during a horrific car crash in which Brent was operating the vehicle.

 In the MLB, Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies was arrested and charged with DUI.  The 17-year MLB veteran now faces potential jail time as well as suspension from his ball club.  Other notable players such as Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Dontrelle Willis and many others have all faced similar charges. This has led the MLB to implement new guidelines on player misconduct and alcohol-related criminal behaviour, where suspensions will be mandatory for any player charged or convicted of driving under the influence.

Despite meeting eligibility requirements, foreign individuals from any country may still be criminally inadmissible to Canada due to previous criminal conduct, or the criminal conduct of their dependents. In particular, if you are convicted of a DUI, Canada entry may be more complicated.

Drunk driving charges are processed under a variety of names worldwide, however they all have the potential to create issues of criminal inadmissibility for foreigners entering Canada. Drunk driving charges that can make an individual criminally inadmissible include, but are not limited to, Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), Driving While Impaired (DWI), Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated (OMVI), and Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI).

Americans should note that Canadian immigration law does not place a great emphasis on the distinction between misdemeanour and felony offenses, which means that even a misdemeanour may ensure criminal inadmissibility.

Criminal inadmissibility can be overcome permanently by Criminal Rehabilitation or temporarily by obtaining a Temporary Resident Permit

Your options for Canada entry if you are criminally inadmissible on the grounds of an offense such as a DUI are contingent upon factors such as the time elapsed since the completion of your sentence and the nature of the offenses on your criminal record. As changes for travellers arise, if you find that you are criminally inadmissible into Canada and require either a temporary resident permit or criminal rehabilitation, avoid trouble at the border by allowing FWCanada’s immigration lawyers to help you.