How a DUI Can Impact Your Immigration Status

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Most people think driving under the influence will never happen to them. But people from all backgrounds, social classes and industries are arrested for DUIs each year. In the state of Michigan, the fines and sentencing for making this choice can be severe.


That’s true for everyone — citizens included. But for immigrants — particularly those who are undocumented — a conviction could put everything on the line.


Here are some of the ways a DUI could impact your immigration status:

Documented vs. Undocumented

If you have established legal residency in the United States, a single DUI conviction should not result in deportation — unless you have other criminal charges to go along with it. The rules that determine which crimes warrant the deportation of an immigrant come from the Immigration and Nationality Act, which does not list DUIs.


On the other hand, a DUI conviction for an undocumented immigrant could mean immediate immigration proceedings and possible deportation. In this situation, you should contact an experienced immigration law attorney as soon as possible.


It is important to note that, even for documented immigrants, a DUI charge combined with other criminal charges could impact their immigration status, as well as applications for naturalization.

Moral Turpitude and Complicating Factors

The Immigration and Nationality Act focuses on crimes of “moral turpitude.” These crimes involve criminal intent. In other words, the offender meant to break the law. This almost completely eliminates DUIs from the picture.


Even if your DUI resulted in serious injury or death of another person, it is not considered a crime of moral turpitude because rarely, if ever, does someone drive under the influence with the intention of hurting someone. There’s simply no criminal intent.


There are, however, some complicating factors. For example, if your DUI involves drug use, it could be grounds for deportation or the denial of a visa/green card. The same is true if you are  arrested for driving after your license has been suspended or revoked — since you know you are breaking the law by getting behind the wheel.


You could also face serious consequences if you were driving under the influence with a child in your car. Prosecutors could seek harsher penalties or charge you with child endangerment, which does meet the level of moral turpitude.


Sometimes, in serious cases, a DUI can be tried as a felony. But while many felony charges lead to immigration action, DUIs are an exception. They are not listed as aggravated felonies and cannot be used against you for deportation purposes.

Naturalization and Citizenship Consequences

Even though a DUI may not lead to deportation, it can have an impact on the naturalization process. This process is what helps legal immigrants with residency status become citizens. 


One of the requirements for naturalization is having “good moral character.” Being convicted of a DUI can ruin that opportunity.

Contact an Experienced Immigration Law Attorney for Assistance

If you are an immigrant — documented or undocumented — who is facing a DUI, it’s essential to get in touch with an experienced immigration and defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact our team at Dallo Law, PC in Oakland County by calling (248) 283-7000.

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