Pre-Sentencing Legal Opinion Letter

Last updated: 28 August 2020

If someone is charged with an offence but has not yet been convicted, there are steps that he or she can take to avoid becoming inadmissible to Canada.

Individuals convicted of a crime that renders them inadmissible to Canada can either apply for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or for criminal rehabilitation to address their inadmissibility.

However, is there anything an individual can do pre-emptively, to possibly avoid being convicted of a crime that renders one inadmissible?

A Canadian flag flying among trees

The answer to this is yes, and one manner through which this may be accomplished is a legal opinion letter addressed to the judicial authority hearing the case. This is a letter that is drafted by a Canadian immigration attorney in which he or she refers to the relevant sections of Canadian law to explain in legal terminology the consequences a guilty verdict would carry with regard to an individual’s ability to enter Canada.

Depending on the circumstances, the effects of a conviction, and the resulting inadmissibility, can be severe. For example, someone whose employment entails a recurring need to enter Canada can see his or her livelihood threatened by a determination of inadmissibility to Canada. Similarly, an individual with family in Canada can be prevented from seeing these family members as a consequence of being found inadmissible.

In addition to appealing to the judge’s compassion by outlining the effects of a conviction, a lawyer can also suggest alternate infractions that would not render the individual inadmissible should he or she be convicted. This is not always possible for more serious charges, but offences such as impaired driving or reckless driving can sometimes be plead down in such a way that the conviction does not result in inadmissibility. For example, the charges above can be reduced to a traffic violation that does not render one inadmissible, or even be dropped altogether in certain cases. A legal opinion letter can help by laying out options allowing this to take place and explaining any mitigating circumstances that could warrant a less severe punishment.

When appropriate, the judge might attribute significant weight to the letter and take it into consideration when imposing the sentence. In this manner, many individuals who had the foresight to procure a legal opinion letter from an experienced Canadian immigration attorney have been convicted of a lesser offence and, consequently, have avoided being found inadmissible.

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