The penalties you face when you get convicted of a DUI in Los Angeles are serious. You can face thousands of dollars in fines and fees, years of probation, and time behind bars. If you’re not a U.S. citizen, there is even the possibility that a DUI will initiate the deportation process.
If you’re looking to apply for a green card, getting a DUI conviction is going to impact your ability to get through the process smoothly. Working with an experienced DUI attorney in Los Angeles can help you if you’re facing the prospect of a drunk driving charge. To find the right attorney for your DUI charge, call us at (310) 971-9045.
The Green Card Application Process
Once you’ve filled out your I-485 application form, you undergo a more thorough vetting process as part of your application. As part of this vetting process, your criminal background and your medical history will be evaluated. In each of these areas, there is the possibility that a DUI can make it substantially more difficult to receive a green card.
Criminal Background Screening for Green Card Applicants
The criminal background screening for green card applicants relies on the standards set forth in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This criminal background check will uncover any crimes for which you’ve been convicted, but the focus for the green card application process is on serious or otherwise morally reprehensible crimes. The statute specifically names crimes such as:
- Sexual assault
However, beyond the specifically named crimes, the INA also gives criteria for which other sorts of crimes are problematic for individuals looking to enter the U.S. or remain inside the country. In particular, the INA forbids the entry or continued residence of individuals who have committed a crime involving moral turpitude. These are crimes in which it’s apparent that there was intent to break the law or otherwise endanger another person.
A DUI conviction in California, when coupled with no aggravating factors, does not fall into the category of a crime involving moral turpitude. This is because a single DUI, as it’s defined in California law, does not consider the act to have come with the intent to break the law or endanger someone else, even if it is a possibility.
However, if a DUI is coupled with an aggravating factor, it is entirely possible that the conviction will result in a rejection of your green card application. Potentially aggravating factors that might push a DUI into the territory of a crime involving moral turpitude include:
- Driving under the influence with a suspended license
- Using or possessing illegal substances
- DUI with a minor in the vehicle
- DUI resulting in the injury of another person
These aggravating factors show either knowledge or intent to break the law or put another person’s safety at risk. For example, the law sees a clear intent to break the law if you drive on a suspended license. In the eyes of the law, you are made clearly aware of your license suspension, so driving after receiving a suspension is a knowing disregard for the law.
Medical Evaluation as Part of the Green Card Application Process
As part of the green card application process, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) evaluates individuals for physical and mental disorders which may lead to harmful behavior. The medical evaluation looks at both current physical and mental disorders, as well as behaviors that have been exhibited in the past. The concern in these evaluations is potentially harmful behaviors that may occur because of these disorders.
Alcohol use disorders can be disqualifying for individuals during the green card application process. A DUI, particularly multiple offenses committed by a single individual or those in which a person was injured, is a sign that the disorder is associated with potentially harmful behavior. As such, a DUI on your record may signal to the evaluating doctor that you may engage in risky behavior that might damage property or another person.
Speak with a DUI Attorney Before You’re Convicted of a DUI Offense
If you’ve been charged with a DUI-related offense, it’s important that you have the right representation. During the green card application process, you will be evaluated on both moral- and health-related grounds. Having a skilled DUI attorney by your side during the DUI process can result in facing less severe charges, which will impact how you are evaluated by the USCIS.
To arrange a free meeting with an experienced DUI attorney to discuss how your DUI charge could affect your green card application, call (310) 971-9045 or use the form on the side of this website.