Can Someone Get Deported for a DUI Charge?

Florida DUI penalties are strict, and a conviction can affect someone for the rest of their life. The conviction is a public record available to potential employers, landlords, loan officers, neighbors, and family members, including your children. The fact that a conviction can carry other unspecified consequences is a concept known in law as “collateral consequences.” 


Can a DUI cause someone who is not a U.S. citizen to be deported? Generally, if the DUI is the person’s first offense and does not involve any aggravating circumstances, the conviction will not trigger removal proceedings. However, some DUIs can result in the commencement of deportation proceedings 


This blog post explains when DUI conviction might be considered a “removable offense” and how the government classifies various crimes to distinguish those that can lead to deportation from those that do not. At Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa, we care deeply about the collateral consequences people may suffer if they are convicted of a criminal offense. That’s why we work so hard to prevent convictions and to obtain the best possible outcomes for our clients when they face criminal prosecution. 



DUIs That Can Create Deportation Issues 


Florida DUIs can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the facts of the individual case. DUIs in which someone other than the defendant is seriously injured or killed will be charged as felony DUIs. Other grounds to charge a driver with a felony DUI include when the offense is the driver’s third DUI charge in 10 years or if they have three or more prior DUI convictions. 


A felony DUI can be the basis for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to commence the deportation process by sending the permanent resident offender a Notice to Appear in immigration court. 


However, some misdemeanor Florida DUI convictions can also lead to deportation proceedings. For example, any of the following scenarios could trigger the removal process to begin: 


  • 1st offense DUI conviction following a prior marijuana-related conviction that did not lead to a deportation process, 
  • 1st offense DUI when the driver was impaired by drugs,  
  • 1st offense DUI if the person convicted has multiple other criminal convictions, 
  • 2nd, 3rd, or subsequent DUI offense. 


What Makes a Crime Trigger Deportation or Removal Proceedings from the U.S.? 


Non-citizens in the U.S., including those in the U.S. as permanent residents (Green Card holders), can face deportation proceedings if they are convicted of a crime categorized as “a crime of moral turpitude” by the federal government.  


Permanent residents face removal if the conviction occurred within ten years of obtaining a Green Card, and non-permanent residents can be removed if they suffer a conviction within five years of being admitted to the United States. 


The phrase “moral turpitude” is extremely significant in law, although Congress did not define the term when it enacted the law. 


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (including Florida) offered the most widely accepted interpretation of the term in Cano v. U.S. Attorney Gen., 709 F.3d 1052 (11th Cir. 2013): 


[A crime of moral turpitude is an] “act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellow men, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.”i 

Some offenses that obviously fit this description include rape, robbery, murder, extortion, bribery, and other offenses that demonstrate a depraved mind. However, crimes involving dishonesty also fall into the category of moral turpitude. All forms of theft and fraud can qualify as crimes of moral turpitude leading to removal proceedings if the penalty is one year or more of incarceration.  


While this working definition is also subject to some interpretation, the Immigration Nationality Act (INA) provides more specific references to what convictions can lead to the offender’s removal from the United States and revocation of their permanent resident status. 


Examples of other common convictions triggering deportation and exclusion proceedings include: 



Other Immigration Status Problems Related to DUI Convictions 


If you are applying for a Green Card or preparing to become a U.S. citizen, a DUI conviction can become an obstacle to your approval. 


The central quality examined during these application processes is the applicant’s good character. One or more convictions on an applicant’s record can create an inference that they are either untrustworthy, dishonest, substance dependent, reckless, or even depraved. Of course, the nature of the conviction weighs very heavily in this analysis.  


A DUI may not create a permanent bar to someone’s obtaining U.S. citizenship, but it can certainly cause them years of delay.  


DUI and Undocumented Migrants in the United States 


Undocumented migrants in the United States face a constant threat of exposure and discovery by officials in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). However, some undocumented immigrants have legal avenues to petition for exemptions from exclusion or removal proceedings.  


If you are arrested on DUI or other charges and you are not a U.S. citizen, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney whose practice focuses on DUI and related charges. Your immigration status is an important factor for experienced DUI defense lawyers. Avoiding a conviction is of paramount importance if you are undocumented.  


While there is no guarantee that dismissal or acquittal of a DUI charge will prevent official removal proceedings, the deportation bureaucracy prioritizes the removal of those with convictions of a serious nature and those with multiple criminal convictions. 


Beating a DUI case reduces the chance that you will be the focus of significant official attention. However, you will be interviewed by an immigration official. Their impression of you as an individual viewed in light of your other life circumstances can affect the direction of your interaction with immigration authorities.  


Read More > How Criminal Charges Impact Immigration Status  


Get Experienced DUI Defense Representation to Avoid Deportation for DUI 


Many immigrants live in Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida, because of our geographic closeness to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. Here in Hillsborough County and Pinellas County, Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law represent clients from all national origins, including many new arrivals to the United States.  


If you need DUI defense to avoid deportation, call on our attorneys at Stechschulte Nell Law at 813-280-1244. We are ready to defend your case. 

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