When a person immigrates to the U.S., they are expected to uphold the law. Driving under the influence (DUI) is against the law, but this charge alone is not a cause for deportation. However, paired with other charges or extenuating circumstances, it could mean leaving the country.
What Is a Crime of Moral Turpitude, and Can It Lead to Deportation?
Federal immigration laws tell us that crimes of moral turpitude can precipitate deportation. Crimes of moral turpitude are crimes that were committed recklessly and in a depraved manner without consideration for others. Adjectives used to describe an act of moral turpitude are immoral, unethical, shocking, reprehensible, and wicked.
Acts that shock the community because of their debauched nature are considered acts of moral turpitude.
One’s mental state is evaluated when being charged with a crime of moral turpitude. The accused has to be in a culpable psychological state when the crime takes place. So, the actions taken by the accused are both reckless and intentional.
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What Other Convictions Lead to Deportation?
Aggravated felonies can be grounds for deporting an immigrant. Crimes of violence or crimes where a risk of force is considerable. The courts have interpreted a “crime of violence” as an aggravated felony.
This means that the crime committed had a “use of force” component that must be proved to be considered a crime of violence. Though somewhat vague, the “substantial risk that force will be used” can fall under the “crimes of violence” banner as well.
Is DUI a Crime of Moral Turpitude?
Normally, a conviction for driving under the influence is not a crime of moral turpitude. Though, there are factors that can accompany a simple DUI that will elevate it to a crime of moral turpitude. Some of these factors are as follows:
- Driving with a suspended license
- Reckless endangerment of a child passenger
- The presence of drugs
- DUI murder or “Watson Murders”
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What Are Aggravated Felonies?
There are over 20 types of conduct that federal immigration laws consider aggravated felonies. Noncitizens can be deported from the US if they are convicted of an aggravated felony. Aggravated felonies are crimes of violence where the convicted is sentenced to a year or more.
Aggravated felonies, when there is a conviction, can get a non-citizen deported from the United States, according to the Immigration and Nationality Act. There was some confusion about whether a DUI conviction is an aggravated felony. This was made clear when Leocal v. Ashcroft came before the United States Supreme Court in 2004.
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What does Leocal v. Ashcroft mean for Non-Citizens with DUIs?
Leocal was charged and convicted of a DUI. This accident caused serious bodily injury, and Leocal was sentenced to over a year in jail. Deportation proceedings were triggered because immigration laws viewed the DUI as a crime of violence, which was considered an aggravated felony.
At the time, the law was not consistently interpreting these charges the same way. The US Supreme Court Justices resolved that a crime of violence must be one in which the crime is one of force towards another person or their property will be used or will likely be necessary for the crime to be committed. In the case of driving under the influence of alcohol, force is not used to commit the crime.
The Court ruled that DUI was not a crime of violence, thus not an aggravated felony. A DUI can be committed without the use of force. Therefore, for immigration purposes, DUI is not considered a crime of violence.
Being involved in a DUI does not mean that you will be deported.
If Convicted of a DUI, Will My Immigration Status Be Affected?
As a stand-alone conviction, a DUI should not get you deported. But, if the DUI happens in conjunction with other charges it can muddy the waters some.
Good moral character is expected of immigrants. While applying for US Citizenship, Good Moral Character is part of the agreement.
Having two or more DUI convictions does not help the immigrant’s case. It may look like a lack of moral character and a danger to others. Habitual drunkness is a characteristic that immigration laws attempt to protect US citizens from.
When a DUI charge has adjacent charges, it can lead to the deportation of a non-citizen. Some charges that lead to immigration issues are drugged driving, driving with a suspended license or a gun, or endangering a child by allowing them to ride as a passenger while they are under the influence. Such convictions could be considered crimes worthy of deportation.
What Sort of Immigration Penalties Can a Non-Citizen Face Because of a DUI?
While citizens are not typically deported due to a driving under the influence conviction, that does not mean that there are no consequences. If the crime is found to be one of moral turpitude, non-citizens can be accused of not having good moral character. This can mean that the citizen is deportable if they are sentenced to a year in jail or were convicted of such a crime within five years of admittance to the United States.
A Los Angeles DUI criminal defense attorney may be able to help you reduce your charges so that your status as an immigrant is not in jeopardy.
What Will an Immigration Attorney Do for Me?
If you or a loved one finds yourself facing a DUI charge, it is imperative that you seek legal help from an experienced immigration lawyer. The climate towards immigrants can be hostile, and a knowledgeable lawyer will understand how to circumvent some of the more harsh laws that seek to find means to deport non-citizens.
Often they can plead down charges to lesser ones so that your livelihood or immigration status is not jeopardized. Keeping the charges from piling up in a way that presents themselves as aggravated felonies is also important. It is important to have someone who understands the law and is looking out for your best interest.
Who do I Turn to When I Need Help?
A Los Angeles DUI attorney has the experience to help you maintain your immigration status because they understand DUI laws as well as immigration law. Your best interest is paramount to how they will approach your case. If you have been charged with driving under the influence, contact them today for a consultation.