State Specific Information on DUI

Can You Visit Canada If You Received a Conditional Discharge for DUI?

The goal of sentencing a criminal charge is to facilitate respect for the law and to promote a just, peaceful and safe society. Sometimes that outcome can be met by discharging the offender without a criminal conviction; in these cases, the state may grant an absolute discharge or a conditional discharge. Discharges are advantageous to first time offenders guilty of offences considered minor in some states, such as a DUI.

An absolute discharge can have no probationary conditions, and is ordered in the strongest cases where conviction and further sentencing would disproportionately impact the individual in relation to wrongdoing. The discharge must, while in the best interest of the offender, not go against public policy.

Conditional discharges do not immediately pardon an individual of a criminal charge as the onus is on the offender to “prove” themselves deservant of the discharge. The individual will be absolved of the offence so long as certain conditions have been met to completion. There are always terms of probation with conditional charges.

If your record includes a DUI charge in the United States you may be criminally inadmissible to Canada. The good news is, many states allow individuals charged with a DUI to partake in a conditional discharge program which would place them on probation without judgement on their case. Once all the conditions of the probation are fulfilled, DUI charges will be formally removed, and the individual does not hold with a criminal record nor traveling restrictions to Canada. Being currently enrolled in a conditional discharge program, however, does not deem one admissible to Canada even with the expectation of fulfilling all conditions of discharge. In such a case, a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or Criminal Rehabilitation (CR) application is still necessary to cross the Canadian border. Border authorities will be able to the initial DUI arrest and can use this as reason to refuse entrance so unless one has received proper and formal documentation proving the criminal charge to be fully dismissed, a TRP or CR is required. For cases where there is a finding of guilt, a person may still be considered inadmissible to enter Canada despite any formal conviction of crime, so it is good practice to obtain a legal opinion letter before entering Canada even after satisfying all discharge requirements.

These state-conditional programs have various names such as pre-initial intervention, suspended imposition of sentencing, deferred prosecution, diversion, and conditional discharge. Below is an overview of the DUI conditional discharge program available in each state. The law will refer to DUI (driving under the influence), DWI (driving while intoxicated), or both.  Restrictions and conditions required of the offender to complete the program may vary by state and some states pose more difficult barriers to overcome criminal inadmissibility for a DUI than others. Please be aware this information is subject to change as new statutes are passed and that you should refer to the penal code of your state for the most up-to-date details. Consulting this webpage is a starting point. This guide does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for proper legal counsel. Each DUI case is different; if you have been charged, always consult with an attorney about your exact situation. To speak to a lawyer about going to Canada with a conditional discharge for a DUI, phone us today for a free consultation.

Most Strict and Most Lenient States for DUIs

A study was published by WalletHub ranking the fifty US states and the District of Columbia on strictness and leniency in dealing with DUIs and DWIs.

The study is comprised of a variety of factors which together form a matrix ranking the different states. Factors utilized include criminal penalties for first and second offences, state considerations for a DUI to be a felony, fees imposed on first and second time offenders, whether an ignition interlock system is required by courts, insurance hikes and more.

This information is interesting considering the crackdowns on alcohol related offences in recent years. Both due to increased legal pressures and maturing social attitudes, drunk driving fatalities have decreased by 52% from 1982 to 2013.

Furthermore, in 2012, DUI and DWI related offences accounted for only 31% of motor vehicle fatalities according to federal government data. In addition to the loss of human life, drunk driving cost American taxpayers an average $60 billion per year.

The data yielded the following results:

Most Strict Most Lenient
1-      Arizona 1-      South Dakota
2-      Alaska 2-      District of Columbia
3-      Connecticut 3-      Pennsylvania
4-      West Virginia 4-      North Dakota
5-      Kansas 5-      Maryland
6-      Nebraska 6-      Montana
7-      Utah 7-      Wisconsin
8-      Virginia 8-      Kentucky
9-      Washington 9-      Vermont
9-      Georgia 10-   Ohio
9-      Delaware 10-   New Jersey

Various factors account for the ranking of each state but most emphasis was placed on states with harsh punishments for first and second time offenders. Arizona for instance, imposes an ignition interlock system in vehicles after one DUI whereas South Dakota does not at any point automatically require an ignition interlock system, however one can be mandated by a judge.

The discrepancies between different punishments vary by state. For instance, in 24 states, installing an ignition interlock system in your vehicle is required after the first DUI. In 14 states, it is only mandatory after the first DUI if the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is over 0.15% (the national limit is 0.08%). In six states, ignition interlock systems are never required.

The reasons for this are diverse. Sometimes, federal funding is tied to state law so that states have to impose stricter penalties in order to receive the funding. Furthermore, organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have been instrumental in lobbying for stricter laws in the federal government. Other states simply have more rigourous police patrolling for DUI or better public transit, so individuals feel less of a need to drive themselves.

This legislation is important as drunk driving continues to be harmful not only to drivers themselves but also to society. In 2013, 10,076 people were killed in alcohol related offences according to the National; Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This equates to one person killed every 52 minutes.

It is not impossible to travel to Canada after a DUI, but you may need some kind of permit. For more information, please fill out our free assessment form.

State Length of probation Deferred prosecution (conditional discharge) Expungement Alternatives to plead to
Alabama 2 years Yes No Plea bargain for wet reckless prohibited
Alaska Usually 3 to 12 months No No Wet reckless
Arizona Up to five years No No- However, can be “set aside” Prohibit reduction of DUI to lesser charge but favourable plea bargain may be possible
Arkansas Typically 12-18 months for 1stoffense and 18-24 months for second offense No Yes Plea bargain for wet reckless (reckless driving involving alcohol) is barred
California 3 to five years No Yes Wet and reckless, Dry reckless, Exhibition of speed
Colorado 1-2 years for first offense, 2-4 years for repeated offense Yes No Wet reckless
Connecticut Up to 2 years of probation on first offense, up to 5 years on second, and undetermined period of probation for three or more offenses Yes Yes- only for individuals who were acquitted, had their charges expunged, or had their case put on hold Wet reckless
Delaware I year Yes Yes Reckless driving alcohol related
Florida 12 months Yes Only for individuals who were acquitted of their charges, had their charges dismissed or entered a deferred adjudication program Wet reckless
Georgia up to 1 year on first offense, and up to 5 years for repeat offenses No No Reckless driving, however difficult
Hawaii 18 to 24 months Yes No Plea bargain is prohibited
Idaho Up to five years Yes Yes Traffic ticket- reckless driving with alcohol
Illinois Up to 30 months; up to 48 months if third offense or passenger under 16 No No Plea bargain for wet reckless is prohibited
Indiana 1 year No Yes Plea bargain for wet reckless is barred by statute
Iowa 12 months Yes Yes Wet reckless may be possible
Kansas Up to two years Yes Yes Wet reckless is prohibited
Kentucky Yes- depending on the County Yes Wet reckless
Louisiana Up to two years Yes Yes Wet reckless
Maine Two year probation Yes Yes Reckless driving – Wet reckless
Maryland Generally one year yes Yes- only for individuals who were acquitted, charges dismissed or if a probation before entry of judgment sentence was imposed Wet reckless
Massachusetts 1 year for first offense 2 years for second offense No No Wet reckless
Michigan Depends on region. On average, 1 year for first offense and 2 years for second offense No No Wet reckless
Minnesota Depends on level of charge- fourth degree up to two years, third and second degree up to six years Yes Yes- only for individuals who have been acquitted or had their charges dismissed Traffic, Reckless driving, Careless driving
Mississippi Yes- depends on district Yes Reducing a charge is prohibited
Missouri Typically 1-2 years Yes Yes Wet reckless
Montana Up to 5 years Yes No Reckless driving; dry reckless wet reckless
Nebraska Up to 2 years for first offense and up to five years for second offense May be possible No Reckless driving
Nevada Minor cases usually few months, serious cases may have periods of 3,5 or more years May be possible for specific groups No Wet reckless
New Hampshire 3 years Yes Yes Reckless operation
New Jersey No No- because it is not considered a criminal offense Reckless driving
New Mexico 1 year for first time offender May differ between districts No Plea bargain difficult; wet reckless prohibited
New York 1 to 3 years No No Reducing alcohol traffic to non-alcohol offense is prohibited, wet reckless not possible
North Carolina Up to 5 years Yes, however, the prosecutor must agree Yes Wet reckless
North Dakota 1 year up to third offense, and 2 years for fourth offense No No Reckless driving
Ohio Up to 3 years for first offense and up to 5 years for multiple offense No No Reckless operation of vehicle, physical control
Oklahoma Up to five years Yes Yes Wet reckless
Oregon Up to five years No No prohibited
Pennsylvania Up to 6 months for first offense Yes Yes Alcohol related reckless driving
Rhode Island Yes Yes Reckless driving
South Carolina No No Limited; reckless driving not possible
South Dakota Yes Yes Wet reckless
Tennessee Up to 2 years, and up to 4 years for fourth offense Yes No Wet reckless, public intoxication, reckless endangerment
Texas Up to 2 years for first offense, 6-1 year typically No No Obstruction of highway, reckless driving
Utah Normally 18 months for misdemeanor and 36 months for felony No Yes Traffic, wet reckless
Vermont 1 to 5 years Yes No Wet reckless
Virginia 1 year No No Reckless driving
Washington Up to five years Only for individuals diagnosed as alcohol dependent Yes Reckless driving, Negligent driving in the first degree, reckless endangerment
West Virginia No probation Yes No Wet reckless
Wisconsin Up to 5 years Yes No Reckless driving not involving intoxication or traffic infractions such as speeding or illegal lane changes
Wyoming Up to three years for misdemeanor Yes Yes Wet reckless


FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on FacebookTwitter, and Linkedin.