A DUI Conviction can Affect Your Immigration Status

Posted by James Ferguson | Sep 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

There is much complexity involved in a DUI case should the offender be a non-citizen or foreign national. Unlike other crimes such as larceny and assault, DUI has a counterintuitive history in the realm of immigration law. This is because the crime does not usually include premeditation or an intentional aspect. In a drunken state, the operator of the vehicle is not able to form intent. However, if bodily injury occurs as a result of the DUI, the driver is viewed as reckless or having a disregard for life and limb. The consequences the driver can suffer also depend on the wording of the applicable state law and how it compares to federal immigration statutes. The cardinal rule here is that the DUI offender should have knowledge of how a DUI guilty plea or conviction will affect his or her immigration status.

Crime of Moral Turpitude
In certain removal cases, an immigration court must determine whether a DUI committed by a non-citizen amounts to a crime of moral turpitude. A crime involving moral turpitude is a deportable offense for the purposes of immigration law. Such a crime is corrupt, depraved, or degenerate. It refers to conduct that generally “shocks the public conscience.” This includes offenses such as murder, kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated assault. This is because the crime involves some kind of mental component whereby the actor must premeditate his or her actions. On the other hand, DUI does not necessarily include mental aforethought given the inebriated state of the actor's mind. DUI can amount to a crime of moral turpitude when child endangerment is involved or where an actor knowingly drives on a suspended license.

Crime of Violence
A crime of violence under immigration law is a deportable offense. A crime of violence requires intentional use of force to inflict harm on another. There have been cases in which non-citizens are placed in removal proceedings due to bodily harm caused as a result of the DUI offense. For example, if a DUI is linked to a car accident that causes the innocent party to break a limb, the non-citizen offender can be placed in removal proceedings. However, the Supreme Court of the United States has pronounced that such injury stemming from a DUI does not amount to a crime of violence. That is because a crime of violence under the immigration statute requires more intentional action and purposefulness.

Naturalization and Evidence of Alcoholism
All non-citizens who are applying for naturalization will go through a background check. The background check will report all criminal charges from last five years prior to their applying for naturalization. In most cases, evidence of multiple DUIs can cause an immigration officer to conclude a pattern of alcoholism. This is relevant because “habitual drunkenness” can be an obstacle to naturalization. Offenders who intend to naturalize should be well aware of these issues.

Your DUI Attorney
Attorney James Robert Ferguson is an experienced DUI attorney with years of experience defending DUI cases. Driving Under the Influence is a serious crime. If you have been charged with DUI, you need an experienced attorney. Attorney Ferguson is well-versed is DUI defense strategies and is ready to take on your unique case, even if you are a foreign national. Attorney Ferguson understands the importance of putting the charge behind you and ensuring that you are informed of all possible consequences. Call us now for a consultation.

See related blog posts:
Inside the DUI Plea Bargaining Process
Does Your Employer Care About Your DUI Conviction?

About the Author

James Ferguson

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. During college, I studied at East Tennessee State University, where I received a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice, which I then followed up with a Master's in Criminology from the University of Memphis. Before beginning my legal career, I worked as a Project Coordinator at the University of Memphis, where I assisted in training law enforcement officers in the Memphis Model of Crisis Intervention Training. The purpose of the project was to provide officers with the tools to deal with citizens in a state of mental crisis. I then went on to study law at the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson. During law school, I clerked with Victor W. Carmody, Jr., the lawyer who wrote the book on DUI law in Mississippi. I am currently licensed to practice law in both Tennessee and Mississippi, and spend a majority of my time traveling the highways and biways of Mississippi defending those who have been charged with a DUI.


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