Seeing a police car in their rearview mirror can leave drivers feeling worried, particularly if they drank alcohol or took drugs. No one wants to spend time in jail, pay fines, lose their license and face other penalties that result from being charged. But drivers who are not U.S. citizens face the additional fear of being deported if they are charged or convicted of DUI.
As with other types of criminal charges, the severity of the crime will impact whether the non-citizen stays or goes. New York City mayor Bill DiBlasio famously irritated Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others when he said that the city would not deport illegal migrants charged with a minor offense as long as the DUI is not part of a more serious crime. But New York City is not in Texas.
A DUI felony
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) considers several facts when deciding to deport an immigrant. Typically, deportation involves those charged with serious crimes and aggravated felonies, including assault, theft or failure to appear in court. A DUI becomes a felony when:
- The intoxicated driver had two prior DUI convictions.
- The intoxicated driver had an alcohol level far above the legal limit.
- The intoxicated driver had a suspended license.
- The intoxicated driver caused others’ injury or death.
- The intoxicated driver had a child passenger who is under 15 years old.
A DUI can impact your status
Those with a green card or a visa could be impacted because the crime may prevent them from renewing their legal status before it expires, but they typically would not be deported. The charges may also be used against those seeking citizenship or a green card.
What about undocumented immigrants?
Immigrants living illegally in the U.S. charged with a DUI or anything else can be deported at any time because charges or a conviction will get the attention of ICE, even minor offenses. Other federal authorities may prioritize illegal immigrants facing more severe charges.
Immigrants still have rights
Regardless of whether the driver charged with DUI is legally or illegally in the country, they have certain rights protected by state law. However, those immigrants and their families may have to fight to ensure those rights are protected. As with anyone facing DUI charges, the key is not to give up just because the driver faces charges.