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Is Drunk Driving a Deportable Offense?

On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked about New York's status as a sanctuary city, under which it refuses to turn over undocumented immigrants to immigration officials over minor criminal offenses. De Blasio said he would define drunk driving as that kind of minor offense so long as it "doesn't lead to any other negative outcome."

While de Blasio's comments earned him the ire of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), they do raise the question of whether a DUI can be a deportable offense, and what factors would matter in that determination.

Drunk Deportation

A DUI -- especially one like de Blasio described -- does not necessarily mean an automatic deportation. Instead, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will consider a number of factors with regard to possible penalties faced by U.S. immigrants. Deportation is generally reserved for serious crimes and aggravated felonies like battery, theft, filing a fraudulent tax return, and failure to appear in court.

Therefore, if your DUI is charged as a felony, you could run the risk of deportation. This can happen if:

  • You have had prior DUI convictions;
  • You had an extremely elevated blood alcohol concentration while driving;
  • You had children in the car while driving drunk;
  • You were driving drunk on a suspended or revoked license; or
  • You caused death or injury in a car accident.

(DUI) Deportation Update Information

Even if you don't get deported, a DUI conviction could alter your immigration status:

  • Legal permanent residents could be deported or detained during removal proceedings, or be barred from becoming a naturalized citizen in the future;
  • Refugees and asylees could be deported after a criminal conviction, even if they would be in grave danger in their home country, and a conviction may result in the inability to obtain legal permanent resident status;
  • Non-citizens with temporary lawful status (including individuals with nonimmigrant visas and those with temporary protected status) could lose that status and be removed from the country for any felony conviction or two or more misdemeanor convictions; and
  • Undocumented immigrants, because they are not authorized to be in the U.S., could be deported for any criminal offense.

In some legal proceedings, like immigration or deportation proceedings, even a DUI expungement could still be considered as proof of a prior conviction.

Many factors, including whether you live in a sanctuary city, could determine whether a DUI will affect your immigration status. Contact a local DUI attorney today.

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