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Can a DUI Conviction Result in Deportation?


If you are a non-citizen who is legally here and got convicted with DUI—without any additional aggravating factors—chances are that you will not be deported. The Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) determines which crimes are deportable. However, DUI isn't on the list.

In order to be deported for a crime, it must involve criminal intent (i.e. a crime of moral turpitude). So even if your DUI charge caused an injury or a death, or if you were driving with a BAC of 0.08 or greater, there is no criminal intent presumed under such circumstances. While DUI manslaughter is a serious offense, nobody drives drunk with the intention of killing somebody.

The following are such factors which can affect your immigration status in California:

  • DUI on a suspended license – Driving on a suspended license requires a culpable state of mind (i.e. if you are driving after your license has been suspended or revoked, you know you’re breaking the law as soon as you get into the driver’s seat). Therefore, DUI while on a suspended license is viewed as a crime of moral turpitude.
  • DUI on drugs – Drug crimes are deportable according to the INA. The act imposes immigration consequences for drug crimes related to substances that are banned by the federal Controlled Substances Act.
  • DUI with child in the vehicle – When a person is charged with a DUI with a child under 14 in the vehicle, prosecutors can take one or two approaches: (1) seek enhanced penalties for DUI with a child in the car or (2) charge the separate offense of child endangerment in addition to the DUI charges.
  • Multiple DUI convictions – You can be made inadmissible if (1) you are convicted of two or more crimes and (2) the total sentences for all the crimes upon which you were convicted add up to five years or more.

The only way in which a single DUI conviction without aggravating factors could affect your immigration is if you seek “naturalization,” or wish to become a U.S. citizen. The reason being that, in order to become an American citizen, you must show “good moral character.” So any criminal history, including a DUI conviction, could have an impact on an individual’s application to naturalize.

If you are an undocumented immigrant, a DUI arrest can immediately result in immigration proceeding and potential deportation.

If you have been charged with a DUI and are an immigrant, it is critical to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and future. At Appel & Morse, we are committed to helping you navigate the complexities of the legal system and get the most favorable outcome possible.

For more information, contact us and request a free criminal consultation today.

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