When you are pulled over and arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas, there are likely several questions running through your mind. You may wonder whether you can beat the charges. You also are probably worried about the consequences a potential conviction. There may be jail time, fines, the loss of your driver’s license, and more. However, if you are not a citizen of the U.S., you may worry most about the immigration consequences of a DWI.
Regardless of your status in the United States, you must consider how a conviction for drunk driving impacts your right to be in the country. You also need to work with a skilled Houston DWI lawyer who can advise you the immigration consequences related to your case.
Can You Get Deported for a DWI?
One of the most urgent questions we receive is, “can someone who is not a citizen can get deported for a DWI?” The answer to this varies. If you are charged with a DWI, immigration status matters.
Someone who is in the U.S. lawfully has historically not been deported for a single DWI. However, under the current administration and legal climate, this may no longer be true. Former U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly has stated one DWI could lead to deportation proceedings. Also, if you are not documented, or if your status is in question, then you could face deportation proceedings.
In recent years, immigration rules have been altered or differently enforced. More recent rules allow for visas and DACA status to be revoked for DWI convictions. If your visa is revoked and you do not leave the country, then you may be at risk for deportation proceedings.
Whether you are on a visa, have a green card (which makes you a permanent resident of the U.S.), or you are undocumented, a DWI could impact your immigration status. It could bar you from renewing your visa, revoke your visa, or prohibit you from becoming a permanent resident or citizen. In certain circumstances, DHS can use a DWI conviction as a reason to seek your deportation.
If you are facing a DWI and immigration issues, call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett right away. Attorney Ned Barnett understands how important it is for you to avoid a criminal conviction on your record and to stay in the country.
Can a Permanent Resident Be Deported for a DWI?
Permanent residents are typically not deported for a DWI. However, immigration consequences of DWI can still have significant implications for someone who is here with a green card, and others who are here illegally.
As a non-citizen, you always face the risk of deportation. This threat is greatest if you are convicted of a “deportable crime.” Offenses of this nature include:
- Moral turpitude crimes
- Aggravated felonies
- Theft, forgery, or violent offenses punishable by at least one year in prison
- Guns, illicit drugs, humans, or destructive device trafficking
- Fraud, tax evasion, or money laundering with losses greater than $10,000
- Sexual abuse of a minor, child pornography rape, murder, or kidnapping
In most circumstances, a DWI is not a deportable offense for someone who is in the U.S. lawfully. However, a conviction for driving while intoxicated can make it difficult to become a citizen. To become a citizen, you must be able to prove good moral character for the five years prior to your application. A DWI during that time complicates the process.
Does a DWI Affect a Green Card Application?
Yes, a DWI conviction can impact your ability to become a permanent resident, though this is not automatic. A DWI does not automatically make you ineligible for a green card. But it will come up during the application process and could support a denial of your application.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) considers alcoholism and alcohol-use disorders to be physical and/or mental. These disorders can make you ineligible for a green card if there is evidence you exhibit harmful behavior associated with that disorder which has or is likely to pose a threat to the safety and property of others. During the green card application process, you must go through a medical evaluation. If this uncovers alcoholism, the DWI may be used to show you have exhibited related harmful behavior. You may be deemed inadmissible on health-related grounds.
You also may be denied permanent residency if a DWI becomes a crime of moral turpitude. Typically, one DWI conviction is not a crime involving such behavior. However, if you are facing a second or subsequent drunk driving charge, or you are charged with a DWI while driving on a suspended or revoked license, then this may amount to a crime of moral turpitude.
Can an Illegal Immigrant Get Deported for DWI?
Yes, if you are an undocumented immigrant living in the U.S. and you are arrested for a DWI, you may be deported. As an undocumented immigrant, your status can lead to deportation at any time. A criminal arrest, charges, or a conviction may put U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on notice that you are in the U.S., and lead them to discover where you live.
Federal authorities have some discretion on when they choose to bring deportation proceedings against undocumented individuals. They historically prioritize more serious offenses or repeat offenders. The more serious the conviction, the more likely it is to trigger deportation proceedings. Minor offenses are less likely to make federal officials act against an undocumented immigrant. However, ICE has been aggressive in beginning deportation proceedings against all undocumented immigrants.
Also, bear in mind that Harris County cooperates with ICE and complies with all ICE detainer requests. If you are arrested for a DWI in Harris County, local law enforcement officials will inquire about your immigration status. If you are undocumented, ICE will likely be notified, and you may be transferred into their custody. You still have a right to an attorney, and you or a family member should contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett as soon as possible.
Can a DACA Resident Be Deported for a DWI?
Many young immigrants in the U.S. who were brought here as infants have legal status through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). This enables many young adults to work and go to school in the U.S. lawfully. However, a DWI conviction could lead to a person’s DACA status being revoked, which in turn can lead to deportation proceedings.
Are You Concerned About the Immigration Consequences of a DWI? Contact Us Today
If you are a non-citizen facing DWI charges in Texas, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we understand the immigration consequences of DWI arrests, charges, and convictions. We will vigorously defend you against these charges and fight for you to avoid a conviction.