The Consequences of a DUI Conviction on your Immigration Status in the United States


One of the sacred principles of the United States criminal justice system states that all defendants are presumed innocent until they are proven guilty. However, things are slightly different when it comes to immigration law. A non-citizen charged with a simple offense, but not yet convicted, may experience a certain level of difference in treatment under U.S immigration law and U.S criminal law.

Besides, the definition of ‘conviction’ under criminal law differs from the definition under immigration law. Note that DUI charges have severe consequences for non-immigrant visa holders in the United States. In some cases, a United States lawful permanent resident might lose their status or even become temporarily ineligible for citizenship if they are convicted of specific DUI-type crimes. This is the primary reason you should contact a Las Vegas DUI lawyer to help you understand your legal options if you are facing DUI charges.

Types of consequences

The form of immigration proceedings that you are going through can make a difference as to how the possible conviction can affect you. For instance, if you are pursuing adjustment of your status to get permanent resident status, your application may be denied. If you are applying for naturalization, you might be found of a bad moral character. In case you have not been in immigration proceedings, probably an argument will be made for you to be removed from the U.S.

Moral turpitude

The Immigration and Nationality Act allows the deportation of a non-citizen who has been convicted of a crime of moral turpitude. Whether you have been convicted of felony DUI or several misdemeanor offenses, this type of crime hasn’t considered an offense involving moral turpitude. For a DUI crime to fit in the moral turpitude category, it must have other elements like intentionally driving on a suspended driver’s license.

Aggravated felony

Non-citizens can also be deported from the U.S if they are convicted of aggravated felony offenses according to the United States’ Immigration and Nationality Act. This is a crime of violence associated with imprisonment of one year or more.

Inadmissibility or removal

If you have been convicted of a DUI constituting a controlled substance, it could be grounds of your inadmissible or even removable. Note that this can occur when you were driving under the influence of illegal drugs and not alcohol at the time you were arrested.

However, the crime should be construed as a conviction of controlled substance under the federal law rather than the state law. This is because state-defined controlled substances might differ from the items listed on the federal list. These are complicated situations, and you should focus on working with a reliable, experienced attorney.

Good moral character

If you intend to apply for naturalization, you should undergo a comprehensive naturalization interview. The BCIS (Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Service) might consider DUI criminal convictions to determine if you have good or bad moral character.

Lastly, DUI can result in a negative discretionary factor. That means you may be denied all discretionary immigration benefits