Canada to ease bar on DUI arrestees from entering country

Canadians to ease rules allowing Americans Entry

For years, Canada has refused entry to anyone with a DUI on their record.  This is because Canada does not allow felons into their country, and in Canada, all DUIs are felonies (even though most in the United States are not).

I have even had a client, whose case had been dismissed, be refused entry.  Canada knew about his arrest, but did not know about the dismissal.

Canada also refused entry to anyone who received court supervision for a DUI in Illinois, even though Illinois law defines “supervision” as “a means of disposition and revocable release without probationary supervision, but under such conditions and reporting requirements as are imposed by the court, at the successful conclusion of which disposition the defendant is discharged and a judgment dismissing the charges is entered.”  730 ILCS 5/5-1-21.

Well, it looks like this policy is about to change, thanks to angry Canadian tourist businesses, who are sick of having their potential customers turned away at the border.

According to Doug Smith of the Star Tribune:

After years of turning back Americans with drunken-driving and other misdemeanor convictions, Canadian border officials are about to relax their entry restrictions.

The move, which begins March 1, should prevent many hunters, anglers and other tourists heading to Canada from being rejected at the border when officials discover a single DWI or other misdemeanor on their records. Thousands of Americans, including many Minnesotans, have been snared by the increase in border security in recent years.

But the changes won’t apply to those with multiple convictions or more serious offenses.

As issue for Americans is that drunken driving is a felony in Canada, while a single offense here often is a misdemeanor.

Canadian tourism industry officials say the tightened border restrictions have resulted in thousands of American customers being turned away at the border, resulting in the loss of millions of dollars in revenue.

“We’ve had hundreds of customers turned around,” said Gene Halley, who runs Halley’s Camps, a fishing lodge-outpost business in the Kenora, Ontario, area. …”The restrictions have cost millions of dollars just in northwestern Ontario over the years,” said Loewen. “People are being turned away who shouldn’t be. We’re not saying let criminals in, but someone who made a minor indiscretion years ago shouldn’t be prevented from coming here to fish.”

It was the Canadian tourism industry’s continued pressure on their government that led Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to develop the new policy, which begins Thursday. Under it, people with one minor conviction can get a free Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) to enter Canada. Previously, obtaining that permit was a lengthy, costly process.

Americans with convictions still would have to go through a “rehabilitation” process to permanently clear their record, but the TRP would prevent their rejection at the border.

A key unanswered question is whether the permit will give an American essentially one “free pass” into Canada, or whether the pass would be good for a certain period of time.

The government has yet to release the details, but a spokesperson said in a written response to questions from the Star Tribune: “It aims to facilitate the entry of those who are currently inadmissible for certain offenses, such as where the individual has served no jail time and there is no evidence of repeat behavior.”

The policy apparently will apply to a DWI, if it is the only conviction on a person’s record.

Loewen and other Canadian tourism officials were recently briefed about the coming changes. Though they, too, are awaiting details, they are encouraged the changes will benefit them and their American customers.

“We’re hoping it’s a large step in the right direction,” said Halley…
For those with criminal records, the procedures to overcome inadmissibility to Canada are complex. See the Canadian government’s explanations at www.startribune.com/a1086.

Thanks to DuPage attorney Donald Ramsell for flagging this important story.

What you can learn from a police officer

In the past week, two New York police officers have been charged with DUIs — one a sergeant, and the other while on duty in his squad car.

What else do these two incidents have in common besides the fact that both involve NY police?

Both officers refused breath tests.

Now, the question that I am always asked is “if I get arrested for a DUI, should I blow or refuse?”

The police just provided you with the answer.

Links:

Off-Duty Sergeant suspended after breath test refusal

On Duty Cop arrested for Drunk Driving

Why you should never speak to the police — even if you are 100% innocent

A friend of mine sent me a link to the above video.  In it, law school professor and former defense attorney James Duane explains why you should always exercise your right to remain silent and why you should never talk to the police — even if you are 100% innocent of any crime.

After Professor Duane finishes, he graciously turns over his podium to Detective George Bruch of the Virginia Beach Police Department for an opportunity to make a rebuttal argument.  You should watch this video all the way through to listen to both gentlemen state their positions.  You may be surprised by what they have to say.

I totally agree with Professor Duane.  It is a serious mistake to think that you will be able to talk yourself out of an arrest.  You are much better served by remaining silent, and letting your attorney guide your defense in court.

If you still disagree after watching this video, think of one thing — when a police officer is accused of a DUI, why do they always refuse?  When they are accused of a crime, why do they always remain silent?

Get the Chicago Bar Assoc. Ratings on your smartphone

The Chicago Bar Association now has a mobile website at https://m.chicagobar.org/, where you can find all of our Judicial Evaluation Committee ratings of the Candidates for the March, 2012 Judicial primaries.

I just looked tried it out on my iPhone and it works great. You can get ratings right here for all the candidates in each race.

This should make voting for judges a whole lot easier!

Chicago Bar Association Evaluations for Cook County Judicial Races are available

The Chicago Bar Association Judicial Evaluation Committee has released its ratings for the March, 2012 Cook County Judicial primaries.

Here is the link to the CBA’s two page “Vote Smart Guide” for the 2012 elections.

Here is the link to the CBA’s 42 page “Green Guide” to the elections.  This guide breaks down each race, and provides reasons for each finding.

A sidenote:  I am a member of the CBA JEC committee, and I was present at about half of the candidate hearings (because we usually hold two hearings simultaneously, it is impossible to be present at all hearings).  I can attest that the Committee gave fair hearings to the Candidates, and based its decisions strictly on legal experience, knowledge and ability, integrity, judicial temperament, diligence and work ethic.  Demonstrated commitment to community service or pro bono activities were considered as a bonus factor.

Please pay extra attention to anyone rated “highly qualified” as those individuals demonstrated exemplary qualities.

FYI: Why you should never consent to a police search

Over on the Huffington Post, Scott Morgan has an article entitled 5 Reasons You Should Never Agree to a Police Search (even if you have nothing to hide).  I highly recommend reading it and passing along the link.

Here is one of his “five reasons”:

Refusing a search protects you if you end up in court.

It’s always possible that police might search you anyway when you refuse to give consent, but that’s no reason to say “yes” to the search. Basically, if there’s any chance of evidence being found, agreeing to a search is like committing legal suicide, because it kills your case before you even get to court.

If you refuse a search, however, the officer will have to prove in court that there was probable cause to do a warrantless search. This will give your lawyer a good chance to win your case, but this only works if you said “no” to the search.

Check it out!

I am deeply troubled by the Calusinski sentence

Today, 25 year old former day-care worker Melissa Calusinski was sentenced to 31 years for the first-degree murder of 16 month old Benjamin Kingan. This strikes me as a great injustice.

I must of course preface my remarks by stating that I was not present at the trial, and have no knowledge of the case beyond what has been reported in the media.

For those of you who don’t know, Ms. Calusinski was working at the Minee Subee day care center in January, 2009. She was a junior level day care worker. The allegations are that Ms. Calusinski became frustrated with Benjamin and threw him to the ground. The boy picked up his pacifier and blanket, then sat in his favorite bouncy seat until he went unconscious and he died shortly thereafter. In the room was his twin sister.

This case, with its allegation of the horrific murder of a defenseless toddler by a uncaring day care worker is heartbreaking. As a parent who lives near the day care center, I was horrified by this story when it was first reported, and followed it in the newspapers.

So why am I troubled by the verdict and sentence?

The evidence against Melissa Calusinki mainly consisted of her own confession, as well as the medical testimony that Benjamin died of a skull fracture. There were no eyewitnesses.

First of all, the facts surrounding Melissa’s confession raise significant concerns to anyone familiar with false confessions. She has an IQ of 74. She did not have a lawyer present. There has been all sorts of testimony and evidence indicating that she is a very simple person, easily confused and pressured. Her interrogation lasted for 10 hours. She did not offer a detailed explanation; instead the detectives put words in her mouth. The officer asked if she hurt Benjamin after being frustrated and she said “Yeah.” After her confession, she asked to see her puppy.

There was evidence at the trial that Benjamin had bruises on his body days before his death. He had been sick and was vomiting during this time. According to a co-worker, on the day of Benjamin’s death, he had a violent tantrum and threw his head back onto the ground. There was medical testimony that raised questions about the coroner’s conclusions about Benjamin’s death.

There was also testimony that Melissa was a sweet person, not prone to anger or violence. There has also been reports that the day care center was understaffed, had previous code violations, and that Melissa was put in a situation way to stressful for anyone, let alone a low IQ 22 year old.

In my opinion, the evidence did not support first degree murder. If anything, it supported a lesser charge of manslaughter, based upon the theory that Melissa was overwhelmed and unable to handle Benjamin’s tantrum, and reacted in a manner that unintentionally, but recklessly, caused his death.

If this was the case, it would be hard to see a sentence of more than 8 years.

And that’s the worst case scenario.

Although I am not sure what happened at Minee Subee that day, it is ultimately the prosecution’s burden of proof to show, beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intentionally battered Benjamin Kingan with the intent of causing great bodily harm that lead to his death. I cannot place much faith in a confession that comes out only after hours and hours of high pressure interrogation, when the defendant is an intellectually challenged young person who likely cannot withstand any pressure and will say anything to get out (she thought) of that room. Especially when it appears that the detectives put the words into her mouth and got her to agree.

Furthermore, the State’s medical testimony was challenged by the testimony of the other day-care workers who saw Benjamin’s bruises and sickness consistent with prior head injury, the tantrum he had where he threw his head onto the ground, and the many questions raised at trial about the accuracy of the coroner’s opinion. Given that, I believe that the evidence was simply not there. Which is not to say that Melissa is innocent — just that the evidence is questionable, and in such a case, when the state fails to meet is burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant wins.

Melissa maintains her innocence, and her attorneys, including Kathleen Zellner, will appeal her conviction and sentence.