Can I Get a Passport if I Have a DUI on My Record?

The immediate criminal penalties and the decades-long consequences of a Florida DUI conviction are serious and damaging. In most cases, a DUI conviction will not stop an otherwise qualified American citizen from obtaining a U.S. passport. 


However, the law does permit courts to restrict interstate and international travel by criminal defendants as well as people serving periods of probation or parole. The U.S. government also has the right to deny certain individuals a passport under various circumstances we’ll explain in this blog post. 


And you must remember that possessing a U.S. passport does not guarantee that a foreign country will permit you to enter through their border if you have a criminal conviction, even a misdemeanor DUI. 


Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, want you to understand your legal rights. Our Tampa law practice concentrates on representing people just like you who found themselves charged with committing a crime in Florida. We devote our professional careers to providing the best possible legal defense for people accused of crimes. If you or someone you know needs experienced, forceful criminal defense representation, contact our Tampa office to discuss the case. 



Who Is Eligible for a U.S. Passport 


The U.S. State Department issues U.S. passports to people who are American citizens by birth or by naturalization. U.S. nationals are also eligible, meaning those born in American Samoa, Swains Island, or the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands. The law does not permit an otherwise eligible citizen to be denied a U.S. passport merely because of a DUI conviction, even a felony DUI.  


U.S. State Department Can Deny Passport Under These Circumstances 


Although a DUI conviction will not automatically preclude a citizen from having a U.S. passport issued, a passport application can be denied if one of the following circumstances applies: 


  • Valid, unsealed federal warrant of arrest, 
  • Valid federal or state court order barring the applicant from leaving the United States, 
  • Pretrial release condition not to leave the jurisdiction, 
  • Probation or parole restriction prohibiting out-of-state or international travel, 
  • Applicant’s previous passport was revoked, 
  • Formal notice is issued to the applicant by IRS that a large tax debt remains unpaid, 
  • Outstanding request for extradition of the applicant. 
  • Conviction of certain criminal trafficking violations of the Controlled Substance Act, especially if a passport was used in furtherance of the crime, 
  • Conviction of trafficking minors and traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct. 


DUI Conviction May Bar You from Traveling to Foreign Countries 


The fact that you may have a valid U.S. passport does not guarantee that you can travel to the destinations you wish to visit. While many nations place some restrictions on the entry of foreign nationals who have felony convictions, several major nations bar the entry of any person with DUI convictions of any type.  


These are the most notable countries with laws barring the entry of people with criminal records, including a misdemeanor DUI conviction: 


  • Canada 
  • Australia 
  • New Zealand 
  • Mexico (though Mexican border authorities apply lax enforcement) 


Other countries do not specifically bar entry to U.S. passport holders with DUI convictions, but they do conduct extensive background checks at various national entry points. Lying about your DUI conviction can constitute an offense and can also disqualify you from entering the country: 


  • China 
  • South Africa 
  • Japan 
  • Malaysia 
  • United Arab Emirates 


If your criminal record includes a felony DUI conviction, you can be legally barred from entering various other countries unless you obtain a special waiver. 


Preventing DUI Convictions Is the Best Way to Protect Your Right to Travel 


The time to worry about your travel being restricted because of a DUI conviction is not after it happens. Instead, preventing the prosecution from obtaining a conviction in your DUI case should be the focus of your efforts. 


Defending criminal DUI charges, including misdemeanor DUI and felony DUI cases, takes years of specialized concentration and courtroom experience. Unlike other types of criminal offenses, DUI prosecutions involve a large body of scientific research that underpins the development of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests and understanding psychopharmacological effects of drugs and alcohol on the human brain. 


The quick pace with which DUI prosecutions proceed prevents an inexperienced defense lawyer from performing at the same high level of competence as a criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience and many years of courtroom expertise to use for the client’s benefit.  


Florida lawyers who focus their legal practice on DUI defense are better equipped to use the existing and developing DUI law in the defendant’s favor. They are recognized as “knowing their stuff,” and that reputation often has a powerful influence on whether a prosecutor will agree to the most favorable outcome for the defendant. 


How DUI-Focused Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help  


Some people wrongly believe that once a driver is charged with DUI, there’s no hope of beating the charge. “After all,” they think, “the officer said I didn’t pass the field sobriety test, and then I flunked the breathalyzer.” How can a DUI defense lawyer help? 


Just as skilled medical doctors and surgeons save patients who are terribly injured when they arrive at the hospital, so too do experienced DUI criminal defense lawyers win dismissals, reduced charges, and acquittals in cases that clients mistakenly think are unwinnable.  


Remember that no driver is required to consent  

to perform field sobriety tests. 


Dissecting the DUI Case in Florida 


After years of study, negotiation, legal research, and courtroom experience, DUI defense lawyers know that every criminal DUI charge is made up of dozens of essential facts that the prosecutor will need to prove before convicting an accused DUI driver.  


  • What was the officer’s cause for stopping the car? Was there a reasonable articulable suspicion that the driver was breaking a law?  
  • Did the driver’s alleged “erratic” driving show on the dash cam? 
  • Does the alleged conduct amount to merely moving within a single lane, not weaving between lanes? 
  • Was the driver moving inordinately slowly because of bad weather or road conditions? 
  • Was the driver stopped based on race or ethnicity? 
  • During the officer’s personal interaction with the driver, did the driver display any specific behavior that indicated intoxication? (slurred speech, a strong odor of alcohol, confusion, nonresponsive answers to questions, lack of normal dexterity in handling documents, etc.) 
  • If sufficiently justified to ask the driver to perform field sobriety tests, did the officer administer the “standardized field sobriety tests” in compliance with the strict test protocols? 
  • Did the officer provide proper instruction, demonstrate, and score the test properly? 
  • Were the tests conducted under safe conditions, or were the weather conditions, ground conditions, and lighting conditions? 
  • Was there probable cause for the officer to arrest the driver on suspicion of DUI? 
  • Did the officer inform the driver of their rights? and pre-breathalyzer rights? 
  • Was the breathalyzer machine and the operator certified, and were maintenance records maintained? 
  • Was the driver continuously observed for the required time before the breathalyzer test? 
  • Was the breathalyzer test conducted according to the legal protocols? 
  • Were the arrest, testing, and booking documents prepared and filed properly? 


These are merely examples and are not an exhaustive list of what skilled DUI defense lawyers analyze in every DUI case and for every DUI client. 


Read More > How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Driving Record?  


Tampa Bay DUI Defense  


If you were arrested and charged with DUI in Tampa or St. Petersburg, contact Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, for legal representation. We are available 24/7 to take your call; 813-280-1244.  

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