DUI and Immigration Status

bigstock-Police-and-Fire-Trucks-Surroun-6682258Being arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) can introduce an extremely stressful period into a person’s life. If convicted of a DUI, drivers face high fines, jail time, forced installation of ignition interlock devices, and license suspensions or revocations. Because so many people rely heavily upon their vehicles in their everyday lives, a DUI conviction is more than a little inconvenient. When immigrants are arrested for a DUI, the consequences may be even graver. Many people wonder how a DUI affects their immigration status and this can be a tricky situation to maneuver.

In most cases, a first-time DUI conviction is a misdemeanor. Depending upon the immigration policies in the state in which the offender lives, this misdemeanor DUI charge isn’t likely to prompt a deportation process. An obvious exception to this likelihood is if the offender is in the country illegally. When a person is in the country without the proper paperwork and is arrested for a DUI, the process may involve conviction, serving out the sentence, and then waiting to be deported to the offender’s country of origin.

However, most states do not consider most first-time DUI convictions a reason to invalidate a VISA. There are two reasons a DUI could result in deportation for immigrants with legal status. If the DUI is considered a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) or if the DUI is considered an “aggravated felony”, the offense will trigger involvement with the Department of Homeland Security. After serving the time that results from the conviction, the offender will be put on an “immigration hold” and the deportation process will begin.

While it is rare that a DUI conviction is considered a CIMT, it could happen. Most often, a DUI is also filed under the CIMT heading when the offender was arrested for a DUI while driving with a suspended license. A consideration of “aggravated felony” usually happens because the offender is a habitual offender, meaning the driver has been arrested for more than one DUI. It is important to remember, though, that all of this depends upon the state in which the offender commits the offense. States like California may place more immediate deportation penalties upon non-citizens arrested for a DUI.

We all know that drunk driving is not a good idea, but thousands of us will do it anyway. The penalties for such brazen disregard for the law are often steep and long-lasting. A conviction of DUI and immigration status is not handled in a similar manner throughout the country. While immigrants may not have to worry about getting deported most of the time, in some instances and in some states, a DUI arrest could trigger a host of issues culminating in a trip back to one’s home country.

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