Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense under California law. When arrested, individuals often feel confused and intimidated about what steps to take. This issue becomes even more complex for non-citizens of the United States. Non-immigrants who are arrested for DUI face the risk of deportation and having their status revoked. However, having competent legal representation increases the chances of avoiding severe immigration consequences.

If you’re a non-immigrant living in Bakersfield, California, on a visa and are facing charges for DUI, you can reach out to our lawyers at Koenig Law Office. Our lawyers are seasoned in criminal law defense and are fully equipped to manage any DUI cases related to a non-immigrant visa.

Understanding Immigration Law

Before delving into how a DUI conviction could impact your visa or immigration status, it is important to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of immigration law. This law stipulates that certain crimes can lead to deportation or render you ineligible for citizenship. Being deemed inadmissible can hinder your ability to change your status, green card application, become an American citizen, or reenter the US after leaving.

Crimes can be categorized into two groups:

  1. Those that can lead to deportation.
  2. Those that can prevent entry into the country.

You could face deportation for offenses that include:

  • Crimes, or serious felony crimes for which the penalty of state jail exceeds one year.
  • Have to do with moral turpitude.
  • Drug-related crimes.

Certain offenses are considered inadmissible if:

  • 2 or more crimes carry a maximum sentence of five years behind bars.
  • Crimes of moral turpitude.
  • Drug-related offenses.

DUI is a rare but conceivable violation that can have serious consequences, including deportation and inadmissibility. Charges related to DUI can impact your ability to stay in the US or be deported. These crimes include:

  • Drug-related DUI.
  • DUI when the victim is a minor (under 14).
  • DUI while your license is suspended.
  • Multiple convictions for a DUI crime.

When you are apprehended for a DUI crime, your picture, fingerprints, and arrest records are entered into a national database. Also, if you violated a state or federal law, the database includes files regarding your sentencing if you’re found guilty of the same offense. While these records could not have immediate immigration repercussions, they could potentially have a detrimental effect in the future.

These records are crucially examined when applying for immigration benefits like visa renewal, status adjustment, the naturalization application process, obtaining additional entry into the country, or filing a petition for relative immigration. Therefore, non-immigrants need to consult with a DUI lawyer to avoid having a DUI conviction on their record. This conviction could potentially hinder their chances of being granted citizenship, and reentry, or even result in deportation.

The Immigration and Nationality Act's Sections 101a-48 provide a broad description of conviction, which includes a guilty plea, no contest plea, a delayed determination of guilt, or a case where any court-imposed sentence has been carried out. In some cases, a DUI lawyer with expertise in immigration law could challenge these criteria. However, plea agreements do not always protect individuals from severe immigration penalties.

Immigration Laws and Simple DUI Accusations

Even if a basic DUI infraction causes death or serious injury, it could not be regarded as a morally repugnant crime. Therefore, severe immigration fines cannot be applied to such an offense. Crimes that involve moral turpitude are those that cause discomfort in one's conscience. These are crimes carried out with a specific mental state or intention.

Simple DUI comprises the following components:

  • You drove with a blood alcohol content of at least 0.08%.
  • You were operating a vehicle while inebriated.
  • You were using drugs and alcohol and operating a vehicle.

The prosecution's main burden of proof in this case is whether or not you were intoxicated. They do not need to demonstrate whether you had the intention of breaching the law, hurting someone, or both.

Possible Consequences of Simple DUI

In addition to the criminal repercussions associated with the offense, a DUI could have an adverse impact on someone's immigration status. While DUI crimes are serious California offenses, first-time offenders typically do not face severe penalties. The case's specific details determine the applicable punishment, and the courts also consider any aggravating or mitigating circumstances before imposing a sentence.

Furthermore, it is important to keep in mind that these repercussions could apply to any foreign national who is detained for DUI. These consequences are not limited to non-immigrants. This implies that everyone with a valid visa, including foreign workers, students, refugees, tourists, families, and other foreign nationals, will face the penalties regardless of their immigrant status.

Among the effects are:

  • Imprisonment of 48 hours.
  • Court fines can range from as less as $ 390 to $2,000.
  • Enrollment in the DUI education course.
  • Summary probation.
  • Suspension of your driving license.

If aggravating factors exist, they can lead to sentence enhancement. In such cases, it’s more probable that you’ll face a hefty fine, extended jail time, and a suspended driver's license. Additionally, detrimental elements can harm your immigration status. To avoid an increased sentence, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a skilled DUI lawyer who specializes in non-immigrant visa cases. They could help you argue against these aggravating circumstances.

Among these aggravating factors are:

  • DUI that results in injury, death, or property destruction.
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) while overspeeding.
  • Refusing to participate in chemical testing, including urine, blood, or breath tests.
  • A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .15% or more.
  • DUI if the defendant is under eighteen years.
  • DUI while your license is suspended.
  • DUI involving a minor.

The Impact of Aggravating Factors on Immigration Status

The majority of DUI convictions don’t impact your immigration status, but some specific aggravating circumstances could have an effect. Here are a few situations where immigration status could be impacted:

Driving Under the Influence With a Suspended Driver's License

In this situation, unlike a conventional DUI, your mental condition matters. A simple DUI doesn’t have a mental state requirement. However, when a driver has a DUI on a suspended license, they are aware that they are not allowed to drive but choose to do so anyway. Therefore, it can be presumed that they are aware of their actions.

Driving with a revoked driver's license is considered a crime of moral turpitude due to the variation in mental state. This can lead to severe immigration penalties, including inadmissibility and deportation.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs

Drug-related crimes can lead to deportation or inadmissibility. DUID is considered a more severe offense under immigration regulations compared to DUI alone, and the penalties include inadmissibility and deportation.

DUI Involving a Minor

Anyone below the age of 14 is considered a minor. Engaging in this offense can have a severe impact on your immigration status. According to California PEN 273(a), you could also face additional charges for endangering the welfare of a child. Similar to operating a vehicle while suspended, this offense requires a certain mental state.

The prosecution has to demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant was aware of the danger you were putting a child's life in and that you were mentally fit when you committed the crime. Your mental state component is what makes this a crime of moral turpitude. This could result in additional sentencing increases, deportation, and inadmissibility implications.

DUI Resulting in Property Damage, Death, or Injury

According to California law, this is considered a felony crime. Due to the serious consequences DUI can have on other people, such as death, severe physical harm, and property destruction, there have been calls from the public to classify DUI as a "violent crime." In some cases, deportation procedures have been initiated against lawful permanent residents for DUI offenses that result in the death or serious harm of another individual.

However, in the end, the California Supreme Court determined that DUI-related injuries did not meet the criteria to be considered a violent crime. This is because violent crimes require more than just ignorance. It is important to note that this distinction does not apply to DUI offenses. Violent crimes are classified by the defendant's use of force to harm others.

Immigration Laws and Multiple DUI Convictions

The severity of your DUI sentence increases based on the number of offenses you have perpetrated within ten years. For example, a first-time DUI isn’t punished the same as a 2nd-time offense. Therefore, if there are multiple DUI convictions within ten years, one of the crimes could become inadmissible.

Furthermore, if you’ve been convicted of 2 or more offenses and your combined sentence exceeds five years, you could be deemed ineligible. It is not necessary for the convictions to originate from the same court. For instance, the penalties for your third and fourth DUI offenses can be aggregated, and if the total exceeds 5 years, the punishment will be deemed inadmissible.

If you are found guilty of DUI, particularly if it’s your fourth conviction, it is crucial to avoid a lengthy prison sentence. Hiring a criminal defense attorney could be beneficial, as they can help negotiate a reduced prison term for you, which will help you retain your status as a nonimmigrant.

DUI Conviction and Its Impact on Naturalization

Obtaining US citizenship involves the process of naturalization. Even a first-time DUI can still affect one's ability to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. Due to the high number of people aspiring to become American citizens, there are strict requirements that must be met. One of the initial requirements is demonstrating a morally commendable character.

One can assess a person's moral character by carefully reviewing their behavior over the past 5 years. Having a single conviction on a defendant’s criminal record is unlikely to hinder your naturalization application process. However, if you have prior convictions for other crimes or any other evidence suggesting questionable character, it could potentially impact your naturalization process.

If you’ve got a conviction for a DUI with aggravating circumstances on your file, you will not be granted U. S. citizenship. However, the Supreme Court has recently ruled that individuals who have fulfilled all probationary periods, DUI school requirements, and other obligations should not be barred from becoming naturalized citizens solely based on the offense.

The State Department's New Policy

In 2016, the US Department of State implemented new policies regarding DUI arrests of individuals who were in the US on non-immigrant visas. If someone is arrested on suspicion of DUI, this policy could have a significant impact on their immigration status.

There is a process called a "prudential revocation," which can result in the cancellation of a visa. This can happen if an individual has physical or mental health issues. The policy is in place to connect people who have been apprehended for DUI with those who could have health problems, to ensure public safety.

The policy is in effect during your arrest, rather than your conviction. This means that even if you’re not guilty of the charges, your visa could be canceled if you’re a non-immigrant and are apprehended for a DUI crime.

If your visa is revoked, you do not need to worry about being deported, according to the policy. Your US citizenship status would remain unaffected, even though your visa stamp will no longer be valid. This is because the United States Customs and Border Patrol is responsible for determining the legitimate entry points into the nation, regardless of the Department of State's management of visa issuance.

It is currently unclear what the consequences are for breaking the policy, but those who are impacted by it should reapply for a visa before attempting to enter the country.

Refused Entry Owing to DUI Violation

If you have a DUI conviction and are applying for a visa at any US embassy overseas, you could be required to undergo a medical examination. The doctor has the authority to determine whether or not you can be labeled as an addict based on the test results. This assessment can impact your entry into the US.

The CDC examines the doctor's decision and assessment, which is not likely to be under any circumstances. Therefore, it is advised that you consult with an experienced DUI/immigration lawyer before undergoing the medical exam. The lawyer will assist you and help you prepare the necessary documentation to prove that you are not an alcoholic.

Suppose you’ve been convicted of a serious DUI crime, such as DUI resulting in death or injury. In that case, you will not be able to change your immigration status from non-immigrant to immigrant once you enter the United States. If your application for status alteration is officially rejected, you might be at risk of deportation. In addition, a DUI conviction could make it difficult for you to renew your non-immigrant visa. If a defendant has a DUI conviction on his or her criminal record, their visa renewal could be refused.

Although deportation following visa revocation is not intended to happen, there have been reported cases in the Bakersfield area. In some instances, citizens have even received letters from US embassies falsely claiming their immigration status has been withdrawn. This is most likely a result of the sophistication and occasionally confusing nature of the process. To prevent cases like this from occurring, it is crucial to hire an experienced DUI lawyer who can protect your rights and help you stay in the US.

If a J-1 or J-2 visa holder is apprehended for a DUI crime, their visa could be withheld and revoked. So far, J-1 visas have been the only type to be revoked, but this can change. If your visa is prudently revoked as a result of a DUI arrest, you can expect to receive notification through mail or any other means.

This implies that your visa could be canceled without you knowing if you are unreachable or if any other error occurs. This has a significant impact on many individuals because, if they were aware that their visa was about to expire, they might reconsider traveling overseas to avoid further complications. On the other hand, those who are unaware and still travel find out about the visa cancellation after they have already left the country, making it difficult for them to return.

Finding a Bakersfield DUI Law Firm Near Me

A California DUI offense is considered a priorable offense, meaning that the penalties get more severe with each subsequent offense. This applies to both citizens and non-citizens. Repeated convictions can lead to deportation or inadmissibility in certain situations. In addition to the consequences mentioned above, the situation is terrifying.

If you’ve been charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it is crucial to speak with a DUI attorney as soon as possible. At Koenig Law Office in Bakersfield, we have the necessary experience and expertise to defend you against these charges and help you avoid the harsh consequences that come with them. Give us a call at 661-793-7222 so we can help you.