Undocumented Immigrants and DUI in Los Angeles
This is a situation where somebody who is not here legally gets a DUI and is arrested by the police and they're trying to figure out what will happen to them immigration-wise related to one of these DUIs.
Probably the first and most immediate thing is they've been arrested and taken into custody, so that's automatically potentially going to trigger a problem because they're not here legally. So, if immigration realizes they're not here legally, even though they might be able to get out for the criminal case related to the DUI, they may be held in custody simply because they're not here legally and deportation proceedings could be instituted at that time.
Will You Get Deported Over a DUI?
Sometimes the person is cited out into court with a ticket from the arresting officer or even let go from the jail before INS can put any type of a hold on them. If this happens, then the concern is if they get any jail or prison time related to their DUI, that can once again trigger INS or immigration to become involved, put a hold on the person and then after their case is over or after they serve their sentence, they will be taken into custody and they will be deported at that point.
Once you get passed the issue of INS getting their hands on you because you're an undocumented immigrant with a DUI or you're in custody, then the next concern is what about a conviction for DUI if you're an undocumented immigrant, whether this will trigger some sort of an issue for you trying to get your citizenship in the future.
And the answer to this is, usually no. Because typically when they're talking about putting immigration consequences on somebody related to a crime, they're looking at the person's intent.
They're looking at whether it ‘s a crime of moral turpitude, and in general, DUI, especially misdemeanor/first-time DUI, are not crimes of moral turpitude, and therefore, would not cause a person to be able to not become a citizen. Also, even if somebody was on a green card and they pick up a DUI, they would have a strong argument to be able to stay in the country.
Where you start to get into problems related to DUI cases is when you get not only the DUI but other crimes associated with a DUI, and those crimes themselves are deportable offenses because they involve moral turpitude. They involve intent.
They involve someone trying to commit a crime and it's a situation where immigration had a list of crimes that they are not going to permit somebody to be convicted of and remain in the country, even if they're here on a green card.
Consult with an Immigration Lawyer
I always tell people to consult with an immigration attorney because if the immigration attorney knows what they're doing, they're going to be able to properly advise what the person could plead to, what they couldn't plead to.
The reason for this is that I get a lot of clients saying, well I'm not a citizen or I'm a green card holder so I can't plead to anything, and then you say, okay, then you'd better be innocent because unless you're innocent, you're going to end up having to plead to something.
There's no reason to just go to trial for no reason and lose because that what will happen is, you'll get the worse possible sentence and then after you serve your jail or prison sentence, then you're going to get deported.
You have to be realistic and bear in mind that if they've got the evidence on you, you're going to have to plead guilty to something. The issue is going to be what can you plead guilty to if you're an undocumented immigrant or if you're here on a green card, and still be able to remain in the country and still be able to get your citizenship status in the future in the United States
So, when it comes to these DUIs that involve immigrants, your best stop, always first is a criminal defense attorney who understands immigration consequences and issues surrounding DUI cases and who can get you the best possible result.