DUI convictions can carry heavy consequences. One of the most severe penalties can be the effect on a non-citizen’s immigration status. DUI convictions can result in the denial of re-entry, removal, or deportation of non-citizens from the United States. If you are an immigrant facing a DUI, learn more here.
Crimes and Immigration Problems
Immigration problems only come up when the defendant is convicted of crimes of:
- Aggravated Felonies
- Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude
- Controlled Substances
- Domestic Violence
- Child Abuse
- Firearms Offenses
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Crimes Involving Moral Turpitudes are not well-defined under the law, but typically involve “bad” or uncaring or immoral acts by the defendant. Thankfully, the typical first offender DUI charge normally doesn’t fit under any of these categories.
DUI and Immigration Status
Immigration law is highly complicated. The result of any one case can turn on the specific facts of that particular case. The “good news” is that most DUI arrests do not automatically lead to immigration problems.
For instance, no one arrested for DUI for the first time should have immigration problems, so long as their DUI charges are not coupled with another, more serious crime. They should be eligible for the court system’s diversionary program, and their case should not result in a criminal conviction. As a result, their situation should not create immigration problems.
Also, first timers who are not eligible for a diversionary program, or even those clients that are arrested for the second time, should not face immigration problems either. So long as their DUI charges are not connected with additional, more serious crimes, their first offense conviction is just a misdemeanor, and it should not adversely affect their immigration status.
However, keep in mind that any DUI arrest, even a first arrest, that includes charges for more serious criminal offenses can absolutely impact immigration status.
For Example: George is a non-citizen permanent resident with a “Green Card.” George was stopped by the police and arrested for DUI, and his children were in his vehicle while he was intoxicated. The police charge George with DUI and, in addition, charge him with Risk of Injury towards his children. Risk of Injury is the type of state law charge that will qualify as a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude under federal immigration law. If George is convicted of Risk of Injury, he faces possible removal and deportation.
In addition, any non-citizen defendant convicted of either Second Offender or Third Offender (or more) DUI offenses faces certain immigration problems. Based upon the repeated nature of the defendant’s offenses, these felony DUIs could be interpreted as Aggravated Felonies and/or Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude under immigration law. Often, the specific facts involved in each case will determine how the immigration laws may apply to the situation.
State Vs. Federal Law
DUIs are matters of Connecticut’s state law. On the other hand, immigration is controlled exclusively by federal law. Typically, state laws and federal laws regulate very different issues. State laws are concerned with legal matters within a single state. Federal laws address legal matters that involve the entire country. Usually, arrests for state law violations do not involve federal law, but in some instances, there can be an interplay between the two legal systems. For non-citizen defendants, DUI charges are one kind of state law that can also involve federal law.
Generally speaking, any non-citizen convicted of a state law crime could have immigration problems. Immigration law provides that non-citizens who commit certain criminal acts will be removed and deported from the United States as an additional penalty for their crimes. However, there is a saving grace: immigration laws are only concerned with certain kinds of crimes.
We live in a highly uncertain time for immigration matters. Different results seem to be reached on a case-by-case basis. Immigration remains a heated and contested political issue for our country.
Still, this much is very clear: If you have been arrested for DUI, and you are not a United States citizen, you should immediately hire legal counsel, and you need to inform your lawyer of your immigration status right away.
There may be steps that your lawyer can take, especially during the plea process, to minimize the impact of any possible immigration problems. It is crucial that you hire an attorney that has worked with DUI cases combined with immigration problems. If you have a situation involving DUI and immigration, please contact me to discuss your case. I am here to help!