DUI & Immigration Don't Mix!
An arrest for DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) carries significantly more of impact on you if you are not a U.S. citizen.
In Washington State, DUIs are criminalized under RCW 46.61.502. Generally, DUIs are considered gross misdemeanors in Washington State, which carry a maximum jail term of 364 days and a maximum fine of $5000. However, if you have three or more prior DUI or DUI related offenses, you could be charged with a Class B Felony, punishable for a maximum term of ten years and a maximum fee of $20,000.
Although DUIs are serious criminal offenses, most first time offenders will often times be offered plea deals from prosecutors to a less serious conviction, such as negligent driving, or reckless driving. However, if you are not a US citizen, even a first time DUI can pose serious consequences for you. Below I will briefly discuss what type of problems a DUI can cause for you, depending on your immigration status.
LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENTS
A DUI Can Affect Your Chances of Becoming a US Citizen
One of the main ways a DUI conviction or arrest affects most green card holders, is by impacting their ability to become US citizens. Green card holders require "good moral character" for a period of 5 years prior to filing their application for citizenship (N400). In many instances, an immigration officer may determine that you do not have "good moral character" if you have a DUI conviction, or arrest, within five years of filing your application.
A DUI Involving Drugs Can Put You at Risk of Being Deported
Many people forget that it is not just alcohol that can lead to a DUI arrest. Driving under the influence of drugs is also illegal and can lead to DUI. Drug DUIs can often include illegal narcotics or "controlled substances" which put green card holders at risk of losing their status in the United States and being deported. This also includes Marijuana DUIs. If you or a family friend have been arrested for a drug related DUI, it is very important to immediately consult an immigration attorney, because the consequences can be extremely serious.
DREAMERS (DACA RECEPIENTS)
A DUI Conviction Will Most Likely End Your DACA Status
A DUI conviction is considered a "significant misdemeanor" which bars individuals from receiving DACA status in the United States. If you are a DACA recipient, or Dreamer, a conviction for DUI will mean your status will be revoked, and you will more than likely be placed in Immigration Court for Removal Proceedings.
It is important to contact an immigration attorney immediately after a DUI arrest if you have DACA status (Dreamer). A good immigration attorney can work alongside your criminal defense attorney or public defender to ensure the best outcome for you to try and maintain your DACA status.
VISA HOLDERS (STUDENT AND WORK VISAS)
A DUI Conviction Will Most Likely End Your Visa Status
If you are in the United States under a work visa (H1b, H2b, etc.) or student visa (F1), an arrest and conviction for DUI can lead to a revocation of your visa, meaning you would have to return to your country. Once this happens, you would need to reapply for a visa to enter the United States, and go through a consular interview outside the United States for the possibility of re-acquiring your visa. These steps are extremely costly, and burdensome, so visa holders who have been arrested for DUI are strongly encouraged to reach out to an immigration attorney that can work along side their DUI attorney, or an attorney who has experience with both criminal and immigration defense.
A DUI Arrest Will Put You at High Risk of Arrest by ICE
Undocumented immigrants are at a higher risk of being detained by ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) if they have a criminal record of any kind. However, individuals with DUI arrests seem to be a higher priority for ICE agents than other misdemeanors. Undocumented immigrants who are arrested for DUI need to make sure that they find competent representation in their DUI case to avoid jail time. Furthermore, it is important to also contact an immigration attorney immediately, to discuss possible options for relief from deportation if you are placed in immigration court.
This article is meant to only provide a brief summary of the consequences of DUI on your immigration status, for a more detailed analysis, please schedule a consultation.