The biggest concern most people have about Driving Under Influence (DUI) is whether it affects your immigration status or not. The answer is it totally depends on the situation. In the case of an illegal or undocumented immigrant, a DUI arrest means the start of immigration proceedings, and it could also lead to deportation. Scott Thomas, a DUI defense lawyer near Orange County, California, believes that it is best to work with a professional if you are unaware of the laws of the country.
Those who are legally in the US do not have to worry about deportation after a single DUI conviction. According to the Immigration & Nationality Act, the rules for deporting immigrants based on their crimes do not list DUI as one deportable crime, and it also does not list DUI as a reason to stop an immigrant from a green card. However, in most cases, DUI is combined with other criminal charges and could turn into a situation where the conviction will have an impact on your immigration status or could lead to deportation. Plus, DUI will not count against you in specific forms of immigration applications like the naturalization process or DACA for minors.
Let’s get into the details about how DUI has an impact on immigration status.
Immigration status and DUI
The INA uses one key determinant to decide which crime can affect immigration status and which wouldn’t. It is whether the crimes involve criminal intent or not. DUI is not interpreted as something that has a criminal intent, and even if you plead No Contest or Guilty to the DUI charge and if you are convicted, this charge will not lead to any action that involves or impacts your immigration status. Hence, you cannot be deported, nor will the permanent residence status be denied to you on these grounds.
Even if your DUI has injured somebody or led to a death, this remains true. Your residency will not be denied. Yes, DUI manslaughter is a huge and serious charge, but one does not drink and drive with the intention of killing someone, which is why there is no criminal intent presumed here.
It helps to keep in mind that there are other factors that could play a role here. These include having a DUI, which involves driving on a suspended license, illegal drugs, or a DUI with a child in your car. In such cases, the situation will be different. Let’s take a look at them here.
DUI on a suspended license: In a general DUI, no criminal intent can be presumed, but if you are driving after the license has been revoked or suspended, you are already breaking the law the minute you reach out for the car keys. Hence, the law will see it as criminal intent because you know that the action is illegal and still take it. The charge of driving on a suspended license could lead to an action on immigration status. It is this charge and not the DUI that will lead to your deportation. It remains true whether the license was suspended for a previous DUI or due to any other reason.
DUI under illegal drugs: If you are driving in California and receive a DUI, the penalties remain the same irrespective of whether the intoxicant is a legal drug, an illegal substance, or alcohol. However, a DUI involving illegal drugs will change a lot of things for your immigration status. The INA lists drug crimes as a ground for denial or deportation of a green card. Hence, the use of any controlled substance that is banned by the law will affect your immigration status.
DUI with a child in your car: A court will take the DUI very seriously if there is a minor in the vehicle since the driver is also putting the minor at a huge risk. However, there are two different ways to handle this situation- one is to seek enhanced penalties on your DUI charge and the second one is to charge the driver with a DUI and Child Endangerment. This means there will be two charges, and child endangerment does involve criminal intent, which means it will affect the immigration status and could lead to deportation. In this case, a lawyer can get the charge dropped and will also protect you from deportation.
There are cases when DUI is also tried as a felony, and they do not lead to any immigration action. Since a felony DUI is not on the list of INA’s aggravated felonies, it cannot be used against you in this manner, but it could affect your future in case you are trying to become a citizen of the country. If you or someone you know ends up with a DUI, it is important to seek legal help and take the right steps ahead.