A DUI (driving under the influence) conviction carries a number of obvious immediate repercussions: arrest, detention, prosecution and, if convicted, incarceration, fines, loss of a driver’s license and probation. If you are an immigrant or non-immigrant visa-holder, a drunk driving conviction may also affect your rights to remain in the United States.
A first-time simple DUI is not likely to affect your immigration status in and of itself. However, the DUI could present immigration troubles under several conditions. First, revocation of your green card or visa depends upon the manner in which your DUI is classified, which is determined by the facts of your individual case. Second, the DUI could affect your status if you have previous convictions on your record or are convicted of a crime in the future.
Classification of the DUI is Crucial
DUI is generally considered a misdemeanor and, if you are in status and you have no other convictions on your record, immigration likely does not have grounds for revoking your visa or green card.
When deciding how to resolve your criminal case, keep in mind whether a plea bargain could result in your DUI being classified as:
Crime of moral turpitude. A first time simple DUI is usually considered a misdemeanor punishable by less than one year in jail. However, you may face a year or longer sentence under certain circumstances, such as repeat DUIs or a DUI involving injuries or death, which could render the DUI a crime of moral turpitude. Your green card may be revoked if you committed a crime of moral turpitude within five years of your admission to the United States or if you have a second conviction for a crime of moral turpitude on your record.
Aggravated felony. If the circumstances of your DUI render it an aggravated felony under the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) definition, it may be classified as such, regardless of the state’s definition where you were convicted.
Crime of violence. ICE has wide latitude in determining what constitutes a crime of violence. An immigration officer may classify your actions as violent after reviewing the facts surrounding your drunk driving conviction.
Controlled substance. Driving under the influence of certain drugs could be a crime involving a controlled substance. Marijuana is a controlled substance and prescription drugs that were not prescribed to you may also be considered a controlled substance. Alcohol is not a controlled substance.
Drunk Driving Puts Your Green Card at Risk
Your green card may be put in jeopardy if you commit a crime. As a legal permanent resident, you are entitled to certain rights to be heard, but ultimately a judge could decide to revoke your permanent residency and order you removed from the country.
Non-immigrant visa-holders, such as those with a tourist, student visa, H1B or other work visa, have fewer rights than a permanent resident and may be subject to deportation or may be rejected for an extension or new visa in the future.