Immigration and DUI in South Carolina

Seasoned DUI attorneys in Orangeburg, SC understand the impact that even minor offenses can have on your immigration status including deportation, detention and re-entry bars. After being pulled over for driving under the influence, you may be wondering: Can I be deported for a DUI?. The United States Supreme Court states that criminal defense attorneys must advise clients of the consequences that criminal pleas can have on a person’s immigration status. If you are an immigrant facing a DUI charge in South Carolina, it is important that you speak to experienced DUI attorneys in Orangeburg, SC immediately. Your attorney should be able to explain to you how a DUI can affect your immigration status.

The Basics of Driving Under the Influence

DUI, short for “driving under the influence,” refers to the offense of operating a motor vehicle while impaired and/or over the legal blood alcohol level of 0.08%. A DUI offense also includes being under the influence of drugs. If your blood alcohol level is over the legal limit, you may face penalties such as license suspension, jail time, fines and other consequences. If you are in the process of immigrating to the United States, carry a green card, or are soon to become a U.S. citizen, any new criminal charges could affect your immigration status and your future in the country. A DUI is a serious offense whether you are an American citizen or not, and will be handled as such in a court of law.

Contact a DUI defense lawyer in Orangeburg, SC for more information on DUIs and how they can negatively affect your immigration status in the United States.

Can I Be Deported for a DUI?

Drinking and driving is a serious offense for citizens living in the United States. This means that strict regulations and rules against drunk driving are also enforced upon immigrants who are applying for a green card or U.S. citizenship. This is why, as an immigrant to the United States, you need to have a full and thorough understanding of the possible consequences of being charged with a DUI.

The Advisory on Immigration Enforcement states three levels under which an immigrant is legally deportable. These priorities include:

Priority one: An immigrant who is a threat to public safety and national security, including participation in gangs, terrorism, and felony offenses. This also includes offenders attempting to cross the border unlawfully.

Priority Two: An immigrant who has been convicted of three or more misdemeanors and immigrants with a significant misdemeanor offense. A significant misdemeanor accounts for any offenses including sexual abuse and/or exploitation, domestic violence, illegal use or possession of a firearm, drug-related charges, burglary, driving under the influence and/or any conviction in which the immigrant was jailed for 90 days or more.

Priority Three: Immigrants who have received an order of removal on or before the date of January 1, 2014.

DUI attorneys in Orangeburg, SC can help you understand which level you may fall under. In general, if you have been charged with a DUI, you fall under priority two.

The enforcement policy states that the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can and should use detention resources to hold immigrants who fall under these categories. A green card does not provide immigrants with protection against deportation.

A DUI can land you in immigration court removal, where an immigration judge will decide whether or not your crime should result in deportation. If you have past offenses or crimes on your record, these offenses will factor into the judge’s decision when determining whether or not you should be deported. The circumstances of the charge will also be taken into account.

If removal proceedings are initiated, you legally have the right to defend yourself. If you receive a notice to appear in immigration court, contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer in Orangeburg, South Carolina immediately to weigh out all your options and determine the best route to take to handle the situation.

In the case that you are at risk for being deported, there are two things you can do:

  1. Apply for cancellation of removal
  2. Voluntary departure

Cancellation of Removal of Certain Permanent Residents

To qualify for this relief, the length of time you have been living in the United States prior to the incident will factor into the decision to cancel the removal. The number of years you have held your green card prior to the incident will be factored in, as well. These are all crucial parts of the decision-making process and will likely determine if your request for the cancellation of removal from the country will be accepted. You may qualify for this relief if:

  1. You have held a green card for a minimum of 5 years
  2. You have resided in the United States for a minimum of 7 years before the incident
  3. You have not been convicted of an aggravated felony charge.

An immigration judge will review your case and take all these things into consideration. If a judge decides to grant you the cancellation, you will have your green card reinstated. Keep in mind that if there are other negative factors and/or occurrences affecting your immigration status which can affect the judge’s decision, the judge will likely rule against you.

A judge will also take into consideration certain factors when deciding for or against the cancellation of your removal, including:

  • Whether or not you have family members currently residing in the United States
  • The length of time you have resided in the United States (more favor will be given to you if you have been in the United States since childhood)
  • The effect your deportation will have on you and your family
  • Your service to the community
  • Your improvement and/or rehabilitation since receiving the DUI

If a judge does not decide to cancel your removal, you are guaranteed the right to appeal the judge’s decision within 30 days. Contact a DUI attorney in Orangeburg, South Carolina for more information on how to request a cancellation of removal or to appeal a judge’s decision.

Voluntary Departure

Voluntary departure gives you the option of preventing an actual order of removal being placed upon you. This act gives you the option of voluntarily leaving the United States without receiving any type of formal order from the United States government. This is advantageous because by voluntarily removing yourself from the country, you avoid becoming inadmissible to the United States in the future, as removal from the country renders you inadmissible for re-entry for several years.

What Happens to My Green Card if I Get a DUI?

A DUI can land you in immigration court, and if a judge decides to rule against you, it is possible that your green card may be revoked. If your green card is revoked, you will be deported from the country and prohibited from entering again for several years.

Although U.S. immigration law does not list a DUI as a deportable offense, if the severity of your DUI matches one of the descriptions of deportable offenses, you are at risk of losing your green card. This all depends on the circumstances surrounding your arrest and whether or not there were additional charges or other factors which increase the severity of the charge.

If you are charged with a DUI, and the charge involves “aggravating factors” your green card may be at risk. Such aggravating factors include:

  • Driving with a suspended or invalid driver’s license
  • Driving without a license
  • Possession of illegal drugs
  • Additional charges such as endangerment or reckless driving
  • If there was a child with you in the car
  • Causing bodily harm/injury to another person

If it is determined that the factors associated with your charge deem you deportable, you will have your time in deportation court to defend yourself. If this is the case, you should seek counsel from an experienced attorney immediately who is familiar with deportation proceedings and DUI law in your state. Immigration and DUI attorneys in Orangeburg, SC can help you understand if there were aggravating factors related to your charge which can affect the status of your green card and can help defend you in court if a judge issues a deportation order.

How Does a DUI Affect my Immigration Status?

A DUI is enough to revoke your non-immigrant visa and can have a huge impact on your immigration status. It is also something which will factor into your application when you apply to become a U.S. citizen. In order to gain citizenship in the United States, you must prove that you have sustained good moral character for five years before the submission of your application. A DUI on your record can severely impact this.

A good DUI defense attorney in Orangeburg, SC who is familiar with immigration law can help improve your chances by taking a look into your history and working with you to determine if you are a good member of the community and model employee.

If you are applying for United States citizenship, it is very likely that your application will be rejected because of your DUI. Of course, factors such as the circumstances around the charge, your employment, your family and how many years you have been living in the country will be taken into consideration. However, if you have any other offenses, and depending on the severity of the offenses, your application may be denied.

Good Moral Character

If you have a DUI and are applying for U.S. citizenship, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will need to know the circumstances behind the DUI. Things the USCIS will consider include how many DUIs you have received in the past, your blood alcohol level at the time you were driving and any other circumstances such as injuries, if anyone was driving with you, if there were children involved, and more.

Although having a DUI can have a negative impact on your immigration status, it does not result in a complete automatic rejection from the United States citizenship application process, as it all entirely depends on the circumstances of the situation as well as your life and status in the country.

Things which could help your case if you are an immigrant with a DUI include your behavior, community involvement, good employment record, your family and examples of positive behavior like participating in volunteer work.

In any case, you should consult with an Orangeburg, SC lawyer before submitting any type of application. A lawyer will give you feedback and information regarding your application and help you decide if you should apply for your citizenship right away or wait a few years.

Contact an Attorney in Orangeburg, South Carolina to Discuss DUIs and Deportation

If you are an immigrant facing a DUI charge, then it is important that you reach out to an Orangeburg lawyer familiar with DUI and immigration law. Whatever your immigrant status, a qualified lawyer can help walk you through your different options and what can be done to save your immigration status. If you have a good standing in your community, a family, a good employment record and have displayed good moral character for the length of time you have been residing in the United States, then your Orangeburg, South Carolina attorney can help you fight against removal from the country. If you have a good history with the United States and good moral character, you can fight to stay in the country and avoid any possible risk of deportation.