How Can a DUI Affect Immigrants?
A DUI, usually a misdemeanor, is a criminal offense, and as such, it will involve the defendant being fingerprinted, photographed, and registered in a national database. The record thus created will come up whenever an immigrant applies to renew his/her visa, adjust status from a temporary to a permanent visa, gain asylum status, reenter the U.S. on a current green card, or apply for U.S. citizenship.
It is possible that any of these various "immigration benefits" could be denied based on a DUI on one's criminal record, and it is even possible that deportation or denial or reentry could ultimately result.
However, the precise way in which a DUI will impact an immigrant will depend on such factors as whether he/she is legally in the United States, whether or not the immigrant already has a green card, and on the immigrant's past criminal record (if any).
The three main restrictions that may be imposed on immigrants due to a DUI are:
- Barred from U.S. citizenship.
- Denied permission to enter or reenter the United States.
- Deported from U.S. soil.
In order for such consequences to result, the defendant must plead guilty or no contest, or be found guilty of a criminal offense under the definition of "conviction" imposed by the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.
In more practical terms, however, deportation is more likely to be reserved for DUIs considered "violent crimes" or "crimes of moral turptitude." A violent crime involves the willful, intentional use of force, and a crime of moral turptitude is an act that violates societal standards of morality in an extreme way and in which the perpetrator acts out of a "corrupt or vicious mindset."
In most cases, felony DUIs, aggravated DUIs, and DUI charges accompanied by other criminal charges like child endangerment will be those that put one under high risk of serious immigration consequences. DUI with injury or death, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, Watson Murder (essentially, a repeat-offense DUI causing death), or a 4th offense DUI (an automatic felony in California) would be examples. But for undocumented immigrants, any DUI arrest risks deportation, and for those overseas waiting to enter/reenter the U.S., determination that an immigrant with a DUI is also an alcoholic or drug addict could bar him/her from entering the United States.
Expungement of a Past DUI
Under California Penal Code Section 1203.4, it is possible to petition the court to dismiss a DUI charge for which you have already been convicted and served out the sentence. There are some restrictions, such as not being under any current criminal charge, having completed your DUI probation, and not having served time in state prison for the DUI you want expunged.
A good lawyer can help you through any current legal trouble and apply to have your probation period shortened (perhaps cut by as much as 55%) to get around the first two obstacles. And you can have served time in county jail for the DUI, just not state prison.
The wait for the expungement process is usually around 6 to 12 weeks, but it varies greatly from county to county. Attorney Ross H. Sobel knows how to file the petition and navigate the process efficiently so as to minimize the wait time and maximize the chances of approval for expungement.
However, note that expungement is not a right but is given largely at the discretion of the presiding judge. A good lawyer can present your case in the best light possible, but PC 1203.4, especially as recently revised, gives judges much discretion in their decisions on this matter. Thus, it is all the more important to rely on a lawyer experienced in this area.
Once expunged, you can honestly answer that you were never convicted of the DUI in question, and it will not likely cause any immigration problems.
In recent months (early 2017), the California legislature has been taking action to attempt to protect immigrants from deportation and to ensure they are treated in accordance with the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
One example is the effort to mandate public defenders be available and funded by the state for immigrants as well as for U.S. citizens. With even legal permanent residents sometimes facing deportation after a plea agreement where they plead "guilty" to a misdemeanor charge, many "protection" efforts have gotten underway.
However, the best protection one facing a DUI charge can get is to avail him or her self of the best possible representation. At the Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel, we have won literally thousands of DUI case across nearly three decades of service to California communities in Los Angeles and beyond. We also have deep experience in handling immigration cases and in doing all that is legally possible to protect our clients from deportation or other immigration consequences during the legal battle and following it.
Contact Us Today for Help
At the Law Offices of Ross Howell Sobel, we stand ready to rush to your aid with top-tier legal advice and representation, regardless of your immigration status.
Attorney Ross H. Sobel can help you fight your DUI charge, get a past DUI conviction expunged, and navigate the complexity of U.S. immigration law.
To learn more about how immigration and DUI affect each other in California or to avail yourself of a free legal consultation on the details of your case, contact us anytime 24/7/365 at 818-582-2350.