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immigrants and dui

Will a DUI Jeopardize my Legal Immigration Status in the US?

Being charged with a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Mobile will have serious consequences for any driver. Alabama does not treat driving intoxicated lightly. 

We know from federal statistics that close to one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities were attributed to drunk driving in 2015. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports 10,000 drivers or passengers lost their lives when they were involved in a drunk driving accident.

The numbers are improving however due to states cracking down on DUI.

A survey taken by the website, WalletHub, found Alabama ranked 25th in the nation in prevention policies but 35th in criminal penalties concerning DUI. 

Alabama is one of 37 states that mandates an alcohol-abuse assessment or treatment after a DUI conviction. There is no minimum jail time for a first conviction while a second DUI will land you in jail for 48 hours. You will have to wait until your fourth offense to have an automatic felony.

Those are the rules for an American citizen.

Your Legal Status 

If you are an immigrant, the consequences of a DUI can jeopardize your legal status. Working in the U.S. with a permanent resident status also known as a green card, a DUI can have severe consequences.

Normally with a green card, you can apply for U.S. citizenship after five years unless you are married to a U.S. citizen, when the wait is three years. A green card represents a path to citizenship as a permanent resident, but renewal could be jeopardized as could a work visa renewal as the result of a DUI conviction or even just an arrest.

A DUI can result from just being pulled over for weaving in and out of traffic. But the more serious consequences come if a DUI leads to an accident that results in injuries or death or if there are multiple DUI arrests.

For example:

  • You may find yourself facing removal proceedings where an immigration judge will determine if there is enough evidence to deport you.
  • If you lose your green card it would be years before you can apply for another one.
  • If you are driving under the influence and someone is injured, it could be considered an aggravated felony in the eyes of immigration.  
  • It is up to immigration authorities to look at the circumstances of your DUI, who was injured, and whether you are a repeat offender to determine if you are deportable.
  • You may be denied entry to some countries such as Canada and you may not be able to become a naturalized citizen.
  • A DUI or multiple arrests may prevent you from taking the citizenship exam for up to five years after the conclusion of your DUI.
  • You may find you will not be allowed back into the U.S. after you take a trip if you have any criminal record including a DUI.

The implication of a DUI or repeat DUIs will depend on the circumstance and whether you are in the country or trying to return.

A single DUI with no aggravating factors will likely not lead you to face the harshest penalties but multiple DUIs and an arrest with mitigating factors such as injury or aggression might lead to your deportation. 

To put yourself in the best possible light before the judge, make sure you follow the directives of the court such as probation or alcohol addiction programs.

Your DUI record cannot be expunged or wiped from your record in the state of Alabama.

Regardless, you would be wise to seek the counsel of an experienced DUI lawyer rather than trying to go it alone. You do not want to find out the hard way you made a mistake.

Your Alabama DUI Lawyer

Many states are considering lowering the criteria for a DUI. Currently you are presumed intoxicated if your blood alcohol level is 0.08%. That may be changed to .05% in order for states to continue receiving highway funding.

Your path to citizenship is much more difficult to achieve with a DUI on your record, and this is why it is so important to mount a strong defense to hopefully get your charges dropped or reduced to a less serious charge.

The stakes are high, and Darley Law can help you understand your DUI case and your legal options.  Contact attorney Jason Darley for compassionate and skilled advice and support during this difficult time. You can reach him at 251-732-7058 or by messaging us online.

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