Mischief Charges and US travel
How mischief charges can affect travel to the US for Canadians
A mischief charge can cause you to be denied entry to the US by US customs if you are not a US citizen. The US often denies travellers entry for both pending criminal charges and past convictions. Even if your charge is eventually dropped or withdrawn (or you are acquitted), the US may also deny you entry if you are dishonest with them about your arrest record.
US Customs considers a Canadian criminal mischief charge to be an offence of "moral turpitude".
Mischief, or as the US describes it, "malicious destruction of property", is considered to be a moral turpitude offence as defined by the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Manual Volume 9. This means those who commit mischief offences in Canada may be determined inadmissible for entry into the United States.
The police, someone else, or someone at the court house tried to tell me it wouldn't be a problem?
Unfortunately, things are not nearly as black and white as what some people (often looking to quickly push you through the system) would have you believe. We encourage you to read the US Customs' policy manual yourself here. You will note the relevant section is found at 40.21(a) N2.3-1(b)(10) under the heading "Crimes Committed Against Property".
If you are charged with mischief, it is important that you speak to us about your case before attempting to cross the border. If you are refused entry you could find yourself with lifelong problems and denials. There are things we can do to mitigate and avoid such risks.
Pending Mischief Charges in CPIC
If you are facing a mischief charge that has not been resolved, it will likely show as “pending” in the CPIC system. If US Customs check CPIC and see that you have a pending criminal charge at the border, they may deny you entry. They may further photograph you and store a record of your denial in their computer database indefinitely. This could cause you problems if you attempt to enter the US in the future as well.
US travel and visa applications can be affected even if your charge is withdrawn, dropped, you are acquitted at trial, or you are convicted and received a discharge or were later pardonedUS customs will sometimes ask travellers questions like “have you ever been arrested”, “have you ever been charged or fingerprinted before” when you try to cross or interview for a US visa. If you’ve been charged with mischief the truthful answer to these questions is likely yes (though whether you were legally arrested or not may be arguable).
Some individuals are under the mistaken belief that just because their charge was withdrawn or they received a pardon, that they can answer no to these questions. Just because you weren’t convicted or because you received an discharge or pardon doesn’t change the fact that you were charged and fingerprinted.
If you lie to US customs and they discover that you lied (by checking CPIC or through subsequent investigation) this gives them reason to deny you entry to the US now and in the future. Border guards have the power/discretion to deny you entry if they believe you are being dishonest with them.
It is very easy to be charged with mischief in Toronto. Very little police discretion is used and some people are charged even when there is virtually no damage. Individuals who don't receive legal advice and go through the process without a lawyer often face problems at the US border because they are accused of dishonesty or because they end up with a criminal record as a result of the charge.
You don't have to jeopardize your future or waste thousands of dollars on excessive legal fees. We provide effective and affordable lawyer representation for those charged with mischief under $5,000 in the Toronto area.
Have a skilled criminal lawyer who focuses on mischief charges protect you and your future from the stigma and consequences of a criminal record and conviction.
Call us today: 647-228-5969
Please note: Your case will be defended by a fully licensed Practicing Lawyer of the Law Society of Upper Canada. For more information about our lawyer, click here.
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