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The topic of immigration is an important one today. It is an issue that is hotly debated by nearly anyone running for office in this country, certainly not the least of which is the office of the president. John Kelly, as Homeland Security Secretary, was asked on Meet the Press to share thoughts on what may constitute the deportation of a person illegally residing in the United States. His response included the possibility of a DUI charge triggering a process that could end in deportation. Kelly went on to say that the definition of a criminal in the United States has not changed, but the manner in which we deal with those individuals has changed and will continue to do so.

deportation due to a DUI charge is a common concern.

Can I Be Deported for a DUI in South Carolina?

This is a question that we are asked a lot as DUI defense lawyers in South Carolina. The reality is that there are already laws in place which allow for a deportation process after a DUI conviction, but often these laws are not enforced. Having an immigrant DUI status could result in you being at risk for deportation. However, just how these laws will be enforced under the current administration remains to be seen. The specifics will appear as these new enforcement measures are implemented.

What Happens to My Green Card if I Get a DUI?

One question which is frequently asked is how these new immigration policies will affect an immigrant with a green card or someone who is otherwise in the country legally that has been charged with a DUI. There are many options for entering the United States legally, including work visas, student visas, and, of course, green cards, and these individuals could be placed under the same scrutiny under the new enforcement guidelines. Individuals who have found themselves having minor run-ins with the law will be facing more severe consequences should they find themselves with a DUI charge. Immigrant DUI offenders should thus reach out to a South Carolina DUI attorney if they find themselves in this situation.

The plan to hire thousands more ICE and border patrol personnel bring focus to the topic of immigrants who are convicted of DUI charges, even those here legally. The idea of many people, including immigrant DUI offenders, being forced to leave the country is a very real fear for many in South Carolina and nationwide. Simple misdemeanor charges may be sufficient to raise a red flag for a person who may have been unnoticed previously. The consequences for DUI charges for immigrants, including those with green cards, may be harsher than they have been in the past.

How Does a DUI Affect my Immigration Status?

Having a DUI arrest, a DUI charge, and a DUI conviction may affect the immigration status of individuals in the United States. After the arrest, you will be fingerprinted and photographed, and those records will be supplied to the national database. This is a permanent record which will be referenced every time someone applies for an immigration benefit, including visa renewals, work permits, asylum, naturalization, status adjustment, or admission into the country with a green card or refugee travel document.

The presence of a criminal conviction, including a DUI conviction on your record when applying for these benefits could result in you being denied reentry into the United States, or your removal, or deportation, from the country. The consequences relating to a particular offense usually depends on the particular circumstances of the crime, including prior violations, the state of the immigration process you are in, and so forth. There are three major consequences for immigrants convicted of DUI: denial of admissibility, denial of citizenship, and deportation.

In order to determine exactly how a DUI conviction could affect your immigration status, an experienced DUI lawyer should carefully review your case, the state codes in South Carolina, and the criminal statute in question. By considering these elements word by word, and piece by piece, your attorney may also try to work with the court system in order to argue that your particular DUI charge does not meet the definition of conviction. This is one of several strategies which may be used to protect you from deportation or any other consequences that could affect your status.

DUI Convictions and Inadmissibility vs. Deportation

Whether you already have a green card or are in the process of applying for one, getting a DUI conviction on your record can be very damaging to your ability to continue the immigration process. While there is no “automatic” response to a DUI conviction which affects your immigrant status or green card, in certain circumstances, such a conviction may prevent you from being able to receive a green card. This is also known as inadmissibility. Some crimes could also cause you to be deported from the United States even after getting your green card.

It is sometimes confusing to determine whether a crime will lead to deportation or inadmissibility. There are two different sections of U.S. immigration law for these two areas. In order to determine the circumstances of your own case, consult with an experienced South Carolina DUI attorney. A DUI conviction for an immigrant is a serious thing, but your attorney can help you fight for the best possible result.

In the following sections, we examine the current laws surrounding DUI and DWI, the laws of inadmissibility, and the laws of deportation, and how they interact with each other.

What is a DUI or DWI Charge?

DUI is short for “driving under the influence” and usually implies that a driver has taken alcohol or drugs (either legal or illegal) and should not be operating a vehicle. In some states, this is called DWI, short for Driving While Intoxicated, but in South Carolina, DUI is the charge you will face in most cases for impaired driving.

The facts surrounding an individual DUI case can be very different from other cases and will need to be carefully examined by an experienced DUI attorney. These facts will be considered when determining what a conviction may mean for the immigration process. In a fairly simple DUI, for instance, an offender may be stopped for weaving or driving erratically, but does not have high results on a breathalyzer test. However, other DUI charges involve accidents, injuries, property damage, or reckless driving – these additional factors can be damaging to an immigrant’s status, and may even lead to multiple convictions.

Will a DUI Make Me Inadmissible and Unable to Get a Green Card or Visa?

, or requesting a change of immigrant status once living in the United States. A green card holder is considered a lawful permanent resident, but even someone holding a green card can be denied entry into the United States if they committed a crime before leaving, committed a crime while away, or stayed away for longer than 180 days.

The potential grounds for inadmissibility according to current immigration law include:

  • Committing crimes of moral turpitude, or CMTs. This indicates a crime which is contrary to social norms, or vile.
  • Being addicted to drugs or alcohol – this could lead to inadmissibility on a medical basis.
  • Conviction of a crime involving a controlled substance, or even simply admitting to using or possessing controlled substances.

A single DUI conviction without any additional factors like accident or injury will usually not fit the above categories. However, multiple DUI convictions and a DUI with aggravating factors like injury or property damage could sufficiently meet one or more of the listed categories, resulting in inadmissibility to the United States.

Can a DUI Conviction Make Me Deportable, Even if I’m Already a Permanent Resident?

A person being deportable is a person who, even though they may have a valid green card, could find themselves in immigration court proceedings and at risk of having that green card revoked. If this happens, and your green card is taken away, you will be deported from the United States and will not be allowed to return for a period of several years.

  • Aggravated felony with a sentence of one year or more (includes serious crimes like murder, rape, and drug trafficking, but also includes lesser crimes like theft, smuggling, forgery, falsifying documents, and obstruction of justice)
  • Crimes of Moral Turpitude
  • Violent crime
  • Controlled substance violations

Could a DUI Conviction Prevent Me from Becoming a U.S. Citizen?

The process of naturalization is the process of transitioning from holding a green card to being a full and legal citizen of the United States. In order to complete this process, you will need to prove that you have been of good moral character for the past five years before your application is submitted. If there is a DUI conviction on your record, this becomes more difficult.

If you have a DUI on your record and are considering naturalization, it may be best to wait, if possible, until the five-year period has passed since your conviction. This will ensure that you have a clean record when you apply for United States citizenship. You should also take the necessary steps to deal with issues surrounding your DUI, if they exist, including signing up for treatment programs, complying with probation or restitution terms, and so on.

If You Have a Criminal Conviction as an Immigrant, Do Not Try to Hide It

If you are an immigrant of any status with a criminal conviction, it can be tempting to try to hide this from the immigration authorities when applying for benefits. However, doing this almost always backfires. The fingerprint check which all applicants are subjected to will most likely reveal the conviction. Lying to immigration officials is grounds for inadmissibility itself, and will be considered a sign of poor moral character. If you try to hide a criminal conviction, you will be caught, and you will face the consequences up to and including denial of benefits, and refusal to believe anything else you may say.

Contact a South Carolina DUI Lawyer for Help Today

Everyone makes mistakes, and yours should not necessarily cause you to be separated from your family in the United States. Just because you are charged with a DUI does not mean that you are guilty, nor does it mean that you should give up immediately. There is a chance for you to reduce or eliminate your DUI charges with the help of a South Carolina DUI lawyer who is familiar with DUI cases. Reach out to a DUI attorney today to find answers to your questions and to see if it is possible for your charges to be dropped.