What Happens if a Non-U.S. Citizen Gets a DUI Charge?


In the United States, driving while under the influence is an offense that comes with serious consequences. It can potentially lead to bodily harm, jail time, monetary fees, and a variety of issues. The situation therefore becomes more overwhelming when you are not a United States citizen. You also have to worry about how a DUI charge may impact your lifestyle and your immigration status, such as your visa. So you ask, how does a DUI offense impact a non-U.S. citizen?

In cases of non-citizenship, there are specific charges associated with a DUI offense that can affect your rights to remain in the country, including:

  • DUI of drugs
  • Multiple DUI convictions
  • DUI with a minor below 14 years old
  • DUI on a suspended license

These situations potentially can result in the inadmissibility of citizenship or, in worst case scenarios, deportation. Although very rare, it is possible for DUIs to cause a non-U.S. citizen to be considered both inadmissible and deported.

Consequences for a Non-U.S. Citizen with a Simple DUI Charge

While it is true that DUI charges under immigration laws can be severe, simple first offenses tend to be punished less harshly. These offenses refer to situations in which the person has a minimum BAC of 0.08% while driving or driving while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs in your system. A simple DUI offense is not considered a crime of moral turpitude and therefore cannot attract harsh immigration penalties. The penalties imposed are contingent upon the circumstances surrounding the case. Courts always consider mitigating or aggravating factors before issuing a sentence. 

It is important to note that non-immigrants aren’t the only ones affected by DUI penalties–all foreign citizens, including green card holders, may face consequences. These penalties include: 

  • A 48-hour jail sentence
  • A minimum of $390 to a maximum of $2000 in fines
  • Summary probation 
  • Enrollment in a DUI school program 
  • Driver’s license suspension

If there are any aggravating factors surrounding your case–such as causing injury, minor endangerment, etc.–it is likely that the court will increase your sentence.  

What Happens if You Are Undocumented with a DUI Charge?

Undocumented immigrants face a certain amount of risk any time they are behind the wheel because even a routine traffic stop can leave them vulnerable to government authorities. ICE specifically places a higher priority on deporting undocumented people with criminal records. Unfortunately, a DUI arrest or conviction can heighten the chances of this happening. 

Although a DUI is a state offense that is not enforced by ICE, it can and often does get the attention of ICE in one of three ways:

  • The arresting officer can report you to ICE upon discovering a lack of documentation.
  • Criminal cases are input into a database shared by multiple agencies including ICE. If an agent sees this, they may ask the police to detain you until they come and interview you.
  • ICE can also be alerted once your case is resolved by scanning court records. If so, an agent can visit you even months later.

Getting a DUI while undocumented does not automatically mean you will be deported. A simple DUI may not be enough to convince an agent to enter you into the removal process because a DUI itself is not a deportable offense. However, the charge can alert ICE into action.

What Could Reduce the Risk of Deportation After a DUI Arrest

Whether undocumented or one having legal status, if you are arrested for a DUI, your best defense against the deportation process is a clean record. A non-U.S. citizen may face more risk when it comes to DUI. Therefore, it is of high necessity to hire an experienced attorney to help you form a defense against the charge, so it does not result in a criminal conviction. Here at the Law Offices of Taylor and Taylor, our DUI attorneys specialize in helping you deal with your criminal charges in a way that would be most beneficial for you.

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