Getting a DUI conviction can severely affect every aspect of your life for a decade or more. While many people understand that it can affect their car insurance or ability to get a job, many don’t realize that it can change your ability to visit other countries. Depending on the current status of your driving record, it can be impossible to cross the Mexican border with a DUI.
A DUI on your record can affect you whether you’re coming into the U.S. from Mexico or crossing from California into Mexico. This is one reason why it is important to have a skilled DUI attorney at your side if you’ve been charged with a drunk driving offense. Even if you’ve already received a DUI conviction, a DUI attorney may be able to help you expunge your record so which may let you travel more freely.
Crossing into the U.S. from Mexico with a DUI
Generally speaking, the U.S. only prevents individuals from entering if they have committed a serious or morally reprehensible crime. The specific crimes, as well the general guidelines border agents are required to follow, are outlined in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The specifically named crimes include:
- Sexual assault
A DUI conviction, by itself, generally does not rise to the level of affecting an individual’s ability to enter the U.S. at the Mexican border. However, there are circumstances in which a DUI plays a role in preventing an individual from crossing the border.
Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude
A DUI can make inadmissible when it is combined with aggravating factors. Factors that might make a DUI conviction more serious in the eyes of U.S. immigration law include:
- You have multiple DUIs on your driving record, making you be considered as a “habitual drunkard”
- Your DUI occurred while a child was in your vehicle
- You were found in possession or under the influence of an illegal substance
- Your license was already suspended prior to your DUI arrest
These factors can make a DUI rise to the level of a “crime involving a moral turpitude” under the INA. This is because these factors show that the individual either knowingly disobeyed the law or was otherwise seriously negligent about the safety of others. Once a crime reaches this level, immigration officials can turn you away when you try to cross at the Mexican border.
Traveling to Mexico from the U.S. with a DUI
Mexico’s immigration laws are much less lenient about a DUI conviction. Under Article 37 of Mexico’s General Law of Population, violations of domestic laws in a person’s home country are grounds to deny that person entry into Mexico.
Regardless of whether your DUI was a misdemeanor or a felony in the U.S., Mexican law treats it a level that is like a felony. What is often worse for individuals is that the DUI conviction doesn’t have to be recent. If the offense occurred at any point within the past 10 years, border agents can stop you when you try to cross the Mexican border.
Not Having a DUI on Your Record Is Your Best Chance to Cross at the Mexican Border
Even if you’ve heard stories that individuals have been able to cross the Mexican border, the fact is that a DUI conviction can stop you from crossing in either direction. Counting on a border agent not to follow the laws of either the U.S. or Mexico is no way to make travel plans.
If you’ve been arrested for a DUI offense and want to be able to cross the Mexican border at some point in the next decade, it may be in your best interest to contact an experienced DUI attorney sooner rather than later. Since a DUI conviction can result in you being denied at the border, building a solid defense against the charge can be imperative.
Likewise, if you’ve been convicted of a DUI charge in the last 10 years, you can be denied the ability to cross at the Mexican border. Removing your DUI conviction from your criminal record through expungement may help you when you attempt to cross the border. If you’ve completed the penalties given to you for your DUI conviction, you can have a DUI attorney help you file for expungement. While the DUI can still affect your driving record, it will not appear in a number of criminal background checks.