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DUIs and Immigration, what happens? Part 1

A DUI occurs when you are arrested and charged with an allegation that you were operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Usually, this happens when an officer pulls you over for suspicious behavior and administers a Breathalyzer or field sobriety test (or sometimes both).

If you refuse, the officer might arrest you and subject you to a blood-alcohol test. If the officer determines you were under the influence while driving, you may be charged with a DUI. This post will go over how this charge or conviction could affect your immigration status.

So, what happens when you are charged with a crime? How does it affect your immigration status? Many people believe that even the whiff of a felony charge or conviction can result in immediate deportation. While the Obama Administration has been aggressive in deporting "felons," a conviction or charge is merely one factor among many that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) considers.

Typically, USCIS only automatically deports people for violent or aggravated felonies. For instance, if you injured someone while driving under the influence or your blood-alcohol content was extremely high, that could elevate the charge to an aggravated DUI, which is significantly more severe.

Absent those circumstances, a first-time DUI is unlikely to be the sole factor that results in a deportation. But a conviction can affect your immigration status and delay your opportunity to receive a green card or citizenship.

Even criminal charges make their way to USCIS, so it is critical that you confront these issues head on. You don't want to risk your immigration status over a misunderstanding or blown out of proportion charge. If you are charged with a crime, you may want to consult with a criminal defense attorney, especially if you are in the process of obtaining your citizenship. Your defense attorney can work with your immigration counsel to minimize the effect that a charge or felony conviction may cause.

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