Can you travel to Mexico after getting a DUI in California? The short answer is: “it depends.” Individuals with a drunk driving conviction in the United States may be prohibited from entering Mexico. Mexican immigration laws may prevent anyone with a DUI from entering the country for up to 10 years. However, enforcement is not consistent and some people are able to enter Mexico with a recent DUI while others with an old DUI may be refused entry.
Mexico has always been one of the easiest countries to visit for people in the U.S. Not long ago, there were no checks to walk across the border in places like San Ysidro or El Paso. It was easy to walk across the border for an afternoon and walk back with only a California driver's license. In recent years, there are more stringent security checks and some people find out they may be denied entry because of a California DUI.
No one wants to be turned away at the airport after planning a vacation because of a prior DUI. If you want to know how to avoid a DUI conviction in order to travel freely, talk to your California DUI defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest. After an East Bay DUI arrest, contact Lynn Gorelick today.
Inadmissibility to Mexico After a DUI
Entry requirements for United States citizens going to Mexico are pretty straightforward. U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Mexico unless they are planning to stay for more than 180 days. When entering Mexico, tourists have to fill out an Official Entry Immigration Form (FMM), which may be provided upon arrival. However, enforcement of filling out an FMM and whether or not payment is required can vary. Generally, the FMM is required once a person is in Mexico.
According to the Department of State, “U.S. citizens should be aware that Mexican law permits Mexican immigration authorities to deny foreigners entry into Mexico if they have been charged with or convicted of a serious crime in Mexico or elsewhere.”
Refused Entry to Mexico at Airport
Entry restrictions may be tougher into Mexico when flying into the country. When flying into Mexico from the United States, a visitor generally passes through immigration. Immigration authorities may have access to your U.S. criminal records and are able to see a prior drunk driving conviction.
According to the Mexican Consulate, “you may also be refused entry if your previous criminal history in Mexico or abroad could compromise national or public security.”
Immigration authorities may decide to refuse your request to enter the country if you have outstanding criminal charges or have been convicted of a serious crime. According to Mexico's Federal Code on Criminal Proceedings, serious crimes include all crimes that have a significant, negative effect on the fundamental values of society, including drug-related crimes.
There is not a clear answer on whether a DUI in California would result in being denied entry to Mexico. Countries like Canada are much more strict on people with a prior DUI. Mexican immigration has the authority to deny foreigners entry with a drunk driving conviction but they may still allow someone in with a DUI or even after multiple DUIs. There is a lot of anecdotal information about people getting into Mexico with no problem after a DUI but getting denied entry is always a possibility.
Can I Walk or Drive Across the Border to Mexico?
Depending on the border crossing, time of day, day of the week, and even the individual immigration officials, a U.S. citizen visiting Mexico may be subject to little to no immigration checks. Immigration may consist of quickly flashing a U.S. passport with no cross-referencing of the visitor's criminal record.
However, immigration officials have the authority to conduct a much more in-depth immigration check, which could include asking about criminal convictions and background checks. It is a possibility but many people report no problem walking or driving across the border into Mexico, even with a prior DUI or multiple DUIs.
DUI Defense to Avoid Travel Restrictions
It could be incredibly embarrassing to plan a trip to Cancun with your significant other only to be turned away when getting off the plane in Mexico. However, with a criminal record, being denied entry to another country is always a possibility. The best way to avoid travel restrictions after a drunk driving arrest is to avoid a conviction in the first place.
The prosecutor may make it seem like you don't have a good case and your only option is to accept the plea deal. Before you accept any plea bargain, make sure you understand your rights. You may have a stronger case than you realize. There are a number of defense strategies available, including challenging the results of a chemical breath test. Talk to your East Bay DUI defense lawyer about your case as soon as possible.
DUI Defense for East Bay Drivers
East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 37 years of DUI defense experience and understands how to approach each case for the greatest chance for success. Representing individuals in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local criminal laws, local officers, and the prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay criminal defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.