A Canadian man who was pulled over by an officer in Beverly Hills earlier this week was accused of driving illegally in California without a state driver's licence.
The officer told the driver that he needed a California licence to drive within state borders, even though that is absolutely not the case.
"You're a cop, you should know I don't need that. I'm a Canadian citizen," the driver said in response.
Despite being wrong, the officer continued to intimidate the driver with irrelevant questions in an apparent attempt to assert his authority. He later cited the driver, and even threatened to tow his vehicle away, even though he had no reasonable grounds to do so.
Clearly, the officer in this case did not know the law. It is completely legal for individuals with a valid Canadian driver's licence to drive in the U.S., thanks to a treaty between the U.S. and Canada that removes the need for international driving permits (IDP).
The only way a person with valid Canadian driver's licence can get into trouble while driving in the U.S. is if they fail to provide their other travel documents (i.e. passports, visas) when they are requested to do so. According to Section 264 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, Canadians caught driving without their passports and related documents could face a $100 fine and up to 30 days in jail.
But in this situation, the driver was able to provide all of the travel documents that were requested of him, so the officer had no authority to act in the way that he did. There is no valid excuse for abusing authority, especially not ignorance.
This incident comes after another Canadian named Emily Nield was arrested and jailed in Georgia for driving with a Canadian driver's licence. The officer who had stopped her thought the driver's licence was fake and brought her into the local station, despite not verifying the licence beyond its appearance.
Canadians travelling to the U.S. by road should take it upon themselves to know the law and their rights in case they are faced with a similar situation.