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Can a DUI Result in Deportation?

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. | Last updated on

After pop star Justin Bieber's DUI arrest and the trending #DeportBieber hashtags on Twitter, many are wondering if a DUI can get a foreigner deported.

The Canadian-born singer's arrest brings to the forefront the immigration issues surrounding what happens to non-U.S. citizens who commit crimes while in the states. It's believed Bieber has an O-1 performer's visa, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Since DUIs are serious and dangerous offenses, can a DUI get a non-citizen deported?

Crimes That May Lead to Deportation

The answer can depend on the immigrant's legal status. For undocumented immigrants, any criminal offense can lead to deportation.

For immigrants who are lawfully present in the United States, the Immigration and Nationality Act spells out which crimes can get them deported. They include:

  • Crimes of moral turpitude with at least a one-year prison sentence. These are crimes that violate the community's general moral standards. Basically, it includes anything that demonstrates "knowing or intentional malicious conduct of some kind," such as violent crimes, an immigration lawyer told the LA Times.
  • Aggravated felonies, which are crimes of violence that are punishable by at least a year in prison, like murder, drug trafficking, and battery.
  • Convictions involving controlled substances, though this does not include a "single offense involving possession for one's own use of 30 grams or less of marijuana."
  • High-speed flight from an immigration checkpoint.
  • Certain firearm offenses.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Child abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
  • Human trafficking.

Although DUI is not explicitly listed under the statute, could it potentially fall into one of the deportable categories of crime?

How DUIs Can Affect Immigrants

The U.S. Supreme Court held in Leocal v. Ashcroft that a DUI isn't a crime of violence and isn't considered an aggravated felony under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

But as an immigration lawyer opined in the LA Times, in a situation like Bieber's -- which allegedly involved a DUI and street racing -- it can potentially be argued that he knew his actions could cause serious injury, which could perhaps be considered moral turpitude.

Upon his arrest, Bieber also allegedly admitted to using marijuana, but he is not facing any drug charges. Further, he needs to be convicted of a crime for any of the above-listed immigration consequences to kick in.

While a first-time DUI with no injuries may not result in deportation for otherwise law-abiding immigrants, a DUI conviction -- or even just an arrest -- could raise a red flag when it comes time to renew an immigrant visa. Offenders hoping to become a naturalized citizen could also face difficulties -- for example, in meeting the good moral character requirement.

Whether a non-citizen's DUI leads to deportation or affects his immigration status will depend on the specific facts of his DUI case. For personal guidance about what to do in such a situation, you'll want to consult an experienced immigration attorney and possibly a DUI as well.

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