IMMIGRATION CONSEQUENCES OF A DUI
Soon-to-be president Trump has stated that he intends to enforce deportation of certain immigrants. Might a DUI threaten the immigration status or residency of an immigrant in this country? The answer is yes. Under current law, even a person residing in this country legally but who is not a citizen can be deported for certain DUI offenses. That these laws will be more vigorously enforced than they are now is likely. While the laws governing immigration are very complicated, a DUI can affect a person’s immigration status in the U.S.
The key term the courts use to determine whether an offense such as a DUI is a deportable offense is whether it is a “crime of moral turpitude.” Among the categories of deportable offenses are these so-called crimes of moral turpitude. This is a catch-all phrase, which is not defined by statute but rather left to the courts to interpret. The courts have found that multiple DUIs, a DUI on a suspended license, a driving under the influence of drugs, a DUI with a child in the car and a DUI on top of another charge are all crimes of moral turpitude. While courts have held that a simple first-time DUI is not a crime of moral turpitude, a DUI conviction that includes an aggravating factor such the ones described above is and the driver can face deportation or revocation of his or her visa. The conviction may also prevent an immigrant from obtaining or renewing a visa or green card and can result in the denial of an application for United States citizenship.
So what happens if an immigrant legally residing in this country is convicted of an aggravated DUI such as the ones mentioned above? When the immigration authorities learn of the conviction through the Department of Justice, deportation proceedings might begin immediately following the completion of the driver’s sentence. Often, however, the immigration authorities do not pursue the offender until it is time for a visa renewal or the offender leaves the country and tries to re-enter. In a particularly surprising twist, an offender may apply for citizenship many years after the offense only to find him-or herself facing deportation instead. With the database sharing between the police departments, Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs, it is impossible to “hide” any conviction from the immigration authorities.
If you are arrested for any DUI— even a simple first-offense DUI— and you are not a citizen of the U.S., it is very important to hire a defense attorney immediately. A single DUI is not going to result in your deportation; however, if you have been previously convicted of a crime or are convicted of a crime in the future, one DUI can stack on top of another conviction subjecting you to deportation or other immigration sanctions.
William Weinberg has almost 25 years defending drivers charged with driving under the influence. You may consult with him about your DUI matter by contacting him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or emailing him at Bill@williamweinber.com.