Circuit Court Strikes Down DUI-Related Deportation Ruling

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If someone is in the country illegally, they can face deportation if caught. If they commit a crime, such as DUI, they are also subject to deportation upon facing the charges. However, a court has struck down part of a 50-year old immigration law that makes it easier for immigrants to fight deportation when it’s related to alcohol.

In a 2-to-1 decision, a panel consisting of three judges for the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that the part of the law that equated alcoholism with poor moral character was illegal.

The majority said that alcoholism has long been medically recognized as a disease.

In his assenting opinion, Carter appointee Judge Stephen Reinhardt said, “Is it rational for the government to find that people with chronic alcoholism are morally bad people solely because of their disease?” He continued, “The answer is no.”

Federal immigration law currently allows for the attorney general to cancel the deportation of an illegal immigrant or allow the immigrant to leave voluntarily if the non-citizen is of good moral character. However, the law deems immoral people who participated in genocide or torture, have been convicted of a serious felony or gambling offenses, and “habitual drunkards.”

The majority held that equating drunkenness with poor moral character violated the equal-protection guarantees of the Constitution.

In a dissenting opinion, George W. Bush appointee Judge Richard R. Clifton argued that just because alcoholism is a recognized medical condition, this did not mean that the person was unable to quit drinking or not subject to moral evaluation. He argued that if chronic alcoholics had no ability to control their behavior, then they would not be able to quit drinking as many have done.

If the government does not appeal, the ruling will allow immigrants facing deportation for habitual drunkenness to be able to appeal to stay in the country.

If you have been charged with DUI, you will want an attorney to represent you at your hearing. You will want to choose an attorney familiar with DUI defense. Our attorneys are all experienced with DUI proceedings. Contact us today.

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