Reveal Law

Navigating the Intersection: DUI Convictions and Immigration Consequences

The Immigration Consequences of DUI Convictions: Understanding the Impact on Non-Citizens

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense with far-reaching consequences, particularly for non-citizens residing in the United States. In this article, we will delve into the immigration repercussions of DUI convictions, exploring both deportable crimes and crimes of moral turpitude.

By gaining a comprehensive understanding of these legal concepts, non-citizens and their advocates can make informed decisions and navigate the complexities of the legal system.

Immigration Consequences of DUI Convictions

Deportable Crimes

Non-citizens must be aware that certain criminal convictions can render them deportable. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) classifies crimes that can lead to removal, including DUIs. If a non-citizen is convicted of a deportable offense, they may be subject to deportation or removal proceedings.

Deportable crimes are defined as those that involve moral turpitude, aggravated felonies, controlled substance violations, and crimes of domestic violence. A DUI conviction may fall under the category of deportable crimes if it involves certain aggravating factors, such as driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle, previous DUI convictions, or driving with a suspended or revoked license.

Inadmissible Crimes

In addition to deportation, a DUI conviction can also have implications for non-citizens seeking entry into the United States. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, certain crimes make individuals inadmissible to the country, which means they cannot enter or re-enter the United States lawfully.

Crimes involving moral turpitude can make an individual inadmissible, and a DUI conviction may be considered as such. The term “moral turpitude” refers to conduct that shocks the public conscience, involving dishonesty, fraud, or violent felonies.

While simple DUI convictions generally do not involve moral turpitude, offenses such as driving under the influence causing injury or death and DUI murder may be considered as crimes of moral turpitude.

DUI Convictions and Moral Turpitude

Definition and Application of Moral Turpitude

Understanding the definition of moral turpitude is crucial when assessing the immigration consequences of DUI convictions. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) interprets and applies this concept on a case-by-case basis, considering the specific intent, nature, and elements of the crime committed.

Crimes involving deceit, fraud, or violent intent are generally regarded as crimes of moral turpitude. Specific examples include theft offenses, rape, aggravated assault, and certain California fraud crimes.

However, the determination of whether a specific conviction falls under this category is highly dependent on the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense.

DUI Convictions and Moral Turpitude

While a simple DUI conviction may not itself constitute a crime of moral turpitude, circumstances beyond the act of driving under the influence can lead to a different classification. For instance, if a DUI results in injury or death, it may be deemed as reckless conduct, potentially falling under the moral turpitude category.

Furthermore, DUI murders, where an individual drives under the influence and causes someone’s death, are generally considered as crimes of moral turpitude. These convictions can have severe immigration consequences, potentially resulting in deportation or inadmissibility, even for long-term lawful residents.

DUI Convictions and Aggravated Felonies

Definition of Aggravated Felonies

When it comes to the immigration consequences of DUI convictions, understanding the concept of aggravated felonies is crucial. The term “aggravated felony” is defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and was established by the U.S. Congress to address specific offenses that result in severe immigration consequences.

Aggravated felonies encompass a broad range of crimes, including both state and federal offenses. Some examples of aggravated felonies under the INA include murder, rape, drug trafficking, and crimes of violence.

It is important to note that the term “aggravated felony” is a legal term and does not necessarily align with how it is defined in state criminal statutes.

DUI Convictions and Aggravated Felonies

While a typical DUI conviction may not be classified as an aggravated felony, certain circumstances can elevate it to this level. For example, a DUI conviction involving driving under the influence and causing serious injury or death may be considered a crime of violence, potentially falling under the scope of an aggravated felony.

In particular, the “Watson murder” doctrine in California can have significant implications for non-U.S. citizens. This doctrine holds that if an individual has a prior DUI conviction and subsequently causes the death of another person while driving under the influence, they can be charged with second-degree murder.

As second-degree murder is considered a crime of violence, a conviction under the Watson murder doctrine may be deemed an aggravated felony, subjecting non-citizens to severe immigration consequences.

Immigration Consequences of DUI of Drugs (DUID)

Distinction between Federal and California Drug Laws

While DUI convictions involving alcohol are commonly known, the immigration consequences of Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) also require attention. It is essential to understand the distinctions between federal and California drug laws to grasp the potential immigration effects of DUID.

Federal law maintains an extensive list of controlled substances, and any drug crime involving substances on this list can make an individual deportable. It is crucial to consult an attorney familiar with federal drug laws to determine the specific immigration consequences of a DUID conviction.

On the other hand, California drug laws have their own unique criteria and classification of controlled substances. It is possible for a DUID conviction in California to involve drugs not listed in the federal controlled substances list.

However, non-citizens must still exercise caution, as even a conviction under California drug laws can have immigration repercussions.

Immigration Consequences of DUID

Convictions for DUID can result in various immigration consequences, including inadmissibility, removal, and deportation. The potential severity of these consequences depends on factors such as the classification of the controlled substance involved, the specific charges, and the circumstances surrounding the offense.

A conviction for DUID can render an individual inadmissible, meaning they may be denied entry into the United States. This can apply to both immigrants and non-immigrants, and it is crucial to understand the potential inadmissibility grounds under the INA.

When facing a conviction for DUID, non-citizens can challenge the immigration consequences in an immigration court. It is advisable to seek legal counsel from an immigration attorney experienced in navigating the complexities of DUID cases in relation to immigration law.

A skilled attorney can help explore available defenses, gather evidence, and present a strong case on behalf of the non-citizen facing immigration consequences.

DUI with a Child in the Car

Child Endangerment and DUI

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense on its own, but when combined with the presence of a child in the vehicle, the legal consequences can be even more severe. Child endangerment laws aim to protect the well-being and safety of children, and a DUI conviction with a child in the car can lead to additional charges under child endangerment statutes.

In California, for instance, Penal Code Section 273a addresses child endangerment. If a person is convicted of DUI with a child in the car, they may also be charged with child endangerment.

This can result in penalties such as enhanced fines, probation, mandatory counseling, and even jail time.

Immigration Consequences of DUI with a Child in the Car

The immigration consequences of a DUI conviction become particularly grave when a child is involved. DUI offenses with a child in the car can potentially be considered as crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT).

A CIMT refers to conduct that shocks the public conscience and includes offenses related to child endangerment. A DUI with a child in the car that is deemed a CIMT can have serious immigration consequences.

Non-citizens convicted of such offenses may face grounds for removal or deportation. The final determination of whether a specific conviction falls under the CIMT category is ultimately decided by immigration judges on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the specific circumstances and the interpretation of the law.

Multiple DUI Convictions and Inadmissibility

Determining Inadmissibility Based on Multiple Convictions

Multiple DUI convictions can create inadmissibility issues for non-citizens, barring them from entering or re-entering the United States. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) establishes specific grounds of inadmissibility.

If an individual has been convicted of multiple DUI offenses, the total length of the sentences imposed can be a determining factor for inadmissibility. Under the INA, non-citizens who have been sentenced to a total of five years or more for two or more offenses are generally considered inadmissible.

This includes both prison and probation sentences, regardless of their severity or whether they occurred within a single incident or multiple incidents.

Concerns Regarding Felony DUI Convictions

Felony DUI offenses, especially those involving prior convictions, can lead to severe immigration consequences. For non-citizens, felony DUI convictions can create grounds for deportation.

The INA categorizes certain felony offenses as grounds for removal, including DUI offenses that result in serious bodily injury or death. Additionally, non-citizens may face potential deportation if they are classified as a “habitual drunkard” due to multiple DUI convictions.

This classification can trigger removal proceedings, jeopardizing the immigrant’s immigration status and the right to remain in the United States. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that cancellation of removal may be available to certain non-citizens facing deportation due to multiple DUI convictions.

This form of relief is discretionary and requires meeting specific criteria, such as good moral character, continuous presence, and showing that deportation would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship to a qualifying relative, such as a spouse, parent, or child who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.

DUI and “Good Moral Character” Determination

Requirement of “Good Moral Character”

In the realm of immigration law, the concept of “good moral character” holds significant importance.

It is a prerequisite for various immigration benefits, including naturalization and cancellation of removal. Non-citizens, whether seeking to become U.S. citizens or trying to maintain their status as lawful permanent residents, must demonstrate good moral character.

Impact of DUI Convictions on “Good Moral Character”

DUI convictions can have a substantial impact on the determination of “good moral character” under immigration law. Multiple DUI convictions, in particular, can raise concerns about an individual’s character and conduct.

Immigration authorities may consider an individual classified as a “habitual drunkard” due to repeated DUI convictions as lacking good moral character. This classification can create challenges when seeking naturalization or pursuing cancellation of removal.

The frequency and severity of the DUI convictions, as well as the underlying conduct, will be influential factors in such determinations.

Immigration Consequences of DUI for Undocumented Aliens

Sanctuary State Laws and DUI Arrests

Sanctuary state laws, such as those implemented in California, impact the approach taken by law enforcement agencies towards undocumented immigrants. These laws aim to limit cooperation between state and local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In California, undocumented immigrants are eligible to obtain an AB 60 driver’s license, allowing them to drive legally within the state. While sanctuary laws protect the confidential status of AB 60 license holders, it is important to note that these laws do not prevent law enforcement from arresting individuals for DUI offenses.

A DUI arrest can potentially result in contact with ICE if it meets certain criteria or if an individual has a prior encounter with immigration authorities.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and DUI Convictions

Undocumented immigrants with DUI convictions may face immigration consequences, including the risk of deportation or removal.

Even though DUI offenses are not automatically considered deportable offenses, they can still have an impact, particularly in the context of unlawful presence. If ICE encounters an undocumented immigrant with a prior DUI conviction, their immigration status and history can play a role in determining whether an action for deportation is taken.

While old DUI convictions alone may not be prioritized for removal, they can contribute to an overall assessment of an individual’s immigration violations and potential risk to public safety. It is important for undocumented individuals with prior DUI convictions to seek legal advice to understand their specific situation and explore any potential relief available.

Certain forms of relief, such as waivers or cancellation of removal, may be available in certain circumstances.

Entry into Canada After DUI Conviction

Inadmissibility to Canada After DUI Conviction

Canada has strict rules regarding the entry of individuals with criminal convictions, including DUI offenses. A DUI conviction can render a person inadmissible to Canada, temporarily or permanently, depending on the severity of the offense.

Both U.S. citizens and non-citizens who have been convicted of a DUI offense may face challenges when attempting to enter Canada. Canadian immigration law classifies DUI convictions as serious offenses, as they are considered criminal in nature and pose a risk to public safety.

Inadmissibility to Canada can result in denial of entry at the border, unless individuals take necessary steps to overcome their ineligibility.

Seeking Legal Advice Before Attempting Entry into Canada

Before attempting to enter Canada with a DUI conviction on their record, it is crucial for individuals to seek legal advice from an experienced DUI lawyer with knowledge of Canadian immigration law. Such legal professionals can help individuals understand their eligibility, provide guidance on the necessary steps to take, and assist in overcoming inadmissibility issues.

The process of overcoming inadmissibility to Canada typically involves applying for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or Criminal Rehabilitation. A TRP allows individuals with criminal convictions, including DUIs, to enter Canada for a specific purpose and duration.

Criminal Rehabilitation, on the other hand, provides a more permanent solution by restoring an individual’s admissibility and allowing them to enter Canada without the need for further permits. Navigating the complex application process for TRP or Criminal Rehabilitation can be difficult without proper legal assistance.

Consulting an experienced DUI lawyer with expertise in Canadian immigration law is crucial to ensure that individuals understand the options available to them and increase their chances of a successful entry into Canada.

DUI and H1-B Visas

Implications of DUI Convictions on H1-B Visas

DUI convictions can have implications on the immigration status of H1-B visa holders. An H1-B visa allows employers in the United States to hire foreign workers in specialized occupations.

However, DUI convictions can result in immigration consequences that may impact an individual’s ability to maintain their H1-B status. Under U.S. immigration law, a DUI offense is generally not a deportable offense for non-immigrants, including H1-B visa holders.

However, visa holders should be aware that a DUI conviction can still impact their immigration status and employment opportunities.

Seeking Legal Assistance for DUI and H1-B Visa Issues

If an H1-B visa holder faces a DUI conviction, it is crucial for them to seek legal advice from an experienced DUI lawyer familiar with the intricacies of immigration law. By obtaining proper legal assistance, individuals can gain a better understanding of the potential immigration consequences and possible actions to mitigate the impact on their H1-B status.

DUI convictions can lead to negative consequences on a person’s immigration record and may affect visa renewal processes. Since the ability to maintain H1-B status relies on various factors, including good moral character, it is essential for visa holders to navigate the complexities of DUI-related immigration issues in order to protect their immigration status and employment opportunities in the United States.


Navigating the immigration consequences of DUI convictions requires careful consideration and expert legal assistance, whether it involves potential inadmissibility to Canada or impacts on H1-B visas. Understanding the rules and regulations surrounding these issues is vital to ensure individuals make informed decisions and take appropriate steps to protect their immigration status and future opportunities.

By seeking guidance from experienced legal professionals, individuals can navigate the complexities of DUI-related immigration issues and increase their chances of overcoming inadmissibility and preserving their immigration status. It is critical to consult with a qualified DUI lawyer with expertise in immigration law to explore available options, understand the potential consequences, and make well-informed decisions regarding entry into Canada or visa implications for H1-B holders.

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