What are the Immigration Consequences of a DUI Arrest?

The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act requires that applicants meet a ‘good moral character’ standard that is defined as ‘adherence to generally accepted moral standards of the community’. Until October 25, 2019, DUI was not used as the basis for a finding that an applicant was not of good moral character and, generally, did not carry any immigration consequences. Now, under a new directive from the U.S. Attorney General, evidence of two or more DUI convictions establishes a presumption that the non-citizen is not of good moral character and immigration relief may be denied.

Evidence of rehabilitation after the DUI arrests is not enough to challenge the presumption that the non-citizen is not of good moral character. Evidence would need to be presented that the non-citizen sustained good moral character throughout the relevant look-back period, including at the time of the arrests.

Crimes of Moral Turpitude & Consequences

Criminal convictions for crimes involving ‘moral turpitude’, including DUI, can have immigration consequences. Convictions for these offenses may be the basis for denial of entry, denial of an application for citizenship (naturalization) or denial of an application for permanent residency. Under the law, crimes of moral turpitude may even be the basis for removal (deportation). Crimes of moral turpitude include:

  • Offenses that include an intent to steal or defraud such as theft or forgery
  • Most sex offenses
  • Offenses in which bodily harm is caused or threatened by a intentional act
  • Offenses in which serious bodily harm is caused or threatened by a reckless act

Court Supervision

Although a sentence of court supervision is not a conviction under Illinois law, it will still count as a conviction for purposes of a presumption against good moral character for immigration purposes. Under federal law, a conviction is defined and includes not only actual convictions but also sentences of court supervision.

While judges in Illinois will usually warn criminal defendants of the potential immigration consequences in the event they choose to plead guilty, the failure to do so may not necessarily be the basis to seek to vacate or undo the plea.

DACA Applicants & DUI

Certain convictions will generally prevent non-citizens from obtaining DACA status. A single felony conviction or one ‘significant misdemeanor’ conviction (punishable by more than 5 days in prison but less than 1 year) will cause a disqualification from obtaining DACA status. As Illinois classifies a first DUI offense as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail, a conviction will prevent the applicant from obtaining DACA status.

DUI Defense Attorneys

The Illinois DUI attorneys at The Davis Law Group, P.C., represent clients charged with DUI and, as a result, often have immigration concerns. Our lawyers pay special attention to the immigration status of our clients in order to make certain that, to the best of our ability, they are protected from the negative immigration consequences of their criminal case. Immigration status can be a significant factor in determining the proper strategy and approach to a criminal case, such as DUI.

If you are arrested for DUI, regardless of your immigration status, your first call should be to an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. Our DUI defense attorneys have decades of experience defending clients throughout the Chicago area including Cook County, Lake County and DuPage County. Our team includes legal assistants that are fluent in Spanish for your convenience. Contact us today to discuss your case.