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Can immigrants be deported over DUI offenses?

Since a first-offense DUI is a misdemeanor in Tennessee and elsewhere, it may surprise you to learn that some DUI offenses can have immigration consequences. Generally, a misdemeanor DUI conviction does not result in deportation, but multiple misdemeanor DUI convictions can, under certain circumstances. And, felony DUI offenses can sometimes result in deportation -- even for lawful permanent residents (green card holders) -- and have other effects on your immigration status.

The Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) states that people who are convicted of certain crimes can be deported and removed from the U.S. Although the list of crimes does not specifically mention DUI, repeated DUI convictions or certain felony convictions are considered serious enough to warrant deportation and removal. Here is a summary of the list of deportable offenses:

  • "Crimes of moral turpitude" -- This includes virtually any felony, meaning a crime with a sentence of a year or longer
  • Multiple criminal convictions -- Two or more convictions for felonies or other crimes of moral turpitude
  • Aggravated felonies
  • High speed flight from an immigration checkpoint
  • Failure to register as a sex offender
  • Controlled substance convictions or drug addiction
  • Certain firearm offenses
  • Miscellaneous offenses involving espionage, trading with the enemy, etc.
  • Domestic violence, child abuse, stalking or violation of a protective order
  • Human trafficking

In Tennessee, there are several DUI-related offenses that are charged as felonies. These include fourth or subsequent DUI offenses, vehicular assault, aggravated vehicular assault while driving intoxicated, vehicular homicide, and child endangerment (DUI with a child passenger in the vehicle).

Beyond deportation, a DUI conviction can harm your immigration status

Even if you aren't deported, a DUI conviction could harm your immigration status. This may be the case even if you've had the conviction expunged from your record.

  • Lawful permanent residents could be barred from becoming citizens.
  • Refugees and asylees may be barred from permanent resident status.
  • Non-citizens with temporary lawful status (temporary protected status or any nonimmigrant visa) could lose their status after conviction for any felony or two misdemeanors.

The bottom line? If you are an immigrant who has been charged with DUI, you can't afford not to fight. Hire an experienced DUI defense attorney to protect your rights.

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