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I'm an American living in Canada.

11 years ago, when I was 19, I was stupid and had some pot in my car while driving through a border patrol checkpoint. (Note: A border patrol checkpoint is not the same as a border crossing. A border patrol checkpoint is well-within the US; it is run by border patrol agents, not customs agents.) Long story short, the police dogs found the pot and I was issued a misdemeanor ticket for possession, which required a fee of $300.

Since then, every time I enter the US from abroad (which happens several times a year), the US customs agents give me a hassle about my "drugs at the border event", as they put it, and invariably pull me and my family aside and search through all my things. It's not only embarrassing, but it adds anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours to my travel time, which makes catching planes tough.

Is there any way I can clean my record of this offense, so that I don't get pulled over every time I enter the US?

EDIT: Clarification: I was not arrested. At the time of the incident, the border patrol agent issued me two tickets (on a standard "traffic citation" form): one for "possession of marijuana" and one for "possession of paraphanalia". After he wrote up the tickets, he let me drive away. The tickets said I was to appear in magistrate court some time later. Instead, I opted to send via snail mail a check and a letter stating that I plead no contest to the tickets. (In hindsight, this may have not been the best move. Did I mention I was young and stupid?)

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    In addition to the excellent answers here, you might consider looking up concepts related to "clemency", "expungement", and related concepts that are particular to the US state in which you were living and/or travelling. In some states you can file to have the record sealed/expunged, etc, if you meet requirements that differ by state. This may or may not apply to having been cited by border patrol agents, though, so I only note this may or may not be of use to you - YMMV. It is also less clear whether or not customers/border control treats such legal considerations - they may not care. – BrianH Apr 3 '15 at 18:24
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    @Joe So how did it all work out? – SusanW Apr 18 '17 at 16:06
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While there are no guarantees, you can always file a claim for redress under the DHS TRIP program (Traveler Redress Inquiry Program).

This program is intended for people who, among other things, are:

  • Denied or delayed airline boarding;
  • Denied or delayed entry into and exit from the United States at a port of entry; or
  • Continuously referred to secondary screening.

After you file a claim, you are supposed to be contacted within 30 days to submit any supporting documents. If you have any relevant documentation, be sure to have it ready.

In particular, I would suggest you have a criminal history check going back for the last 11 years from both the U.S. and Canada (since you are resident there) showing you have a clean record since the last time you were arrested for marijuana. You can obtain these from:

  • Canada: Obtain a Criminal Record Check from the RCMP. Also obtain a criminal record check from your local police department in the province and city where you live and any other provinces you have lived for this time period.
  • United States: Obtain an Identity History Summary Check from the FBI. Also obtain a criminal record check from the state police in any U.S. state where you have lived for this time period.

Since these can take several weeks to process, I also suggest gathering these records before filing your TRIP redress claim.

  • This looks like it could have some promise, especially since my record has been clean since then in both countries. (Except for a couple of speeding tickets.) Thanks for the tip. FWIW, I wasn't actually arrested; I've clarified my question stating so. – Joe Apr 3 '15 at 13:57
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    @Joe They treat it as an arrest, even if they simply give you a ticket at the end. – Michael Hampton Apr 3 '15 at 14:36
  • If your convictions (and a plea of "no contest" creates a conviction) are successfully expunged or erased by the US state, be aware that you may face either from DHS (or later, from CBP in border crossing) the question of whether you were arrested or convicted of anything, ever. While a state expungement may permit you to answer "no" within that state, it's likely that a) the federal authorities won't feel bound by that state action, and b) the federal authorities will have records showing your conviction. If you answer "no" without explanation, they'll have you for lying. – David Jul 10 '18 at 20:07

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